Gophers Survive, Beat Kent State By a Field Goal


Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Golden Gophers were favored by more than three touchdowns heading into Saturday’s game against Kent State, and it looked likely to be a serious mismatch. But another shaky offensive showing kept the Golden Flashes in the game, and the Gophers scraped by with a 10-7 home victory.

Minnesota lost the turnover battle 3-0 on Saturday, including an 80-yard fumble return by freshman cornerback Demetrius Monday that was Kent State’s only touchdown in the game. Quarterback Mitch Leidner threw two interceptions in the first half, and he went 17-for-27 for 184 yards and a touchdown in another shaky showing that had true freshman Demry Croft seemingly ready to come into the game for a time.

The Gophers’ offensive line has been riddled with injuries early this season, and the unit’s shortcomings showed up on Saturday. Running back Rodney Smith had just 73 yards on 30 carries, and Minnesota matched his yards per carry average (2.4) as a team. Leidner’s issues are largely his own in my opinion, but inconsistent pass protection has not helped.

Even against a clearly inferior opponent, the Gophers’ defensive effort on Saturday was notable. Kent State managed just 142 yards of total offense, and running back Nick Holley accounted for half that yardage on his own (17 carries for 58 yards and three catches for 13 yards). Quarterback Colin Reardon never got much going through the air, as he finished 10-for-28 for 63 yards with a QBR of 8.2.

It’s worth wondering if a quarterback change is coming for the Gophers, and head coach Jerry Kill avoided talking about the situation in his post-game press conference. In another interesting development, Leidner was not made available to the media after the game.

A win is never something to apologize for, but the Gophers’ failure to dominate Kent State at home is a serious red flag going forward. Leidner is certainly the main lightning rod for blame, but that comes with the territory of being a starting quarterback and it’s not his fault there is no one clearly ready to replace him.

Up next for Minnesota is their homecoming game next Saturday against Ohio. Kickoff is slated for around 2:30 p.m. local time.

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