Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
The Minnesota Golden Gophers got a tough test on Saturday, and the Ohio Bobcats took a four-point lead deep in the fourth quarter. But a 78-yard scoring drive, capped off by freshman running back Shannon Brooks’ second touchdown of the game, allowed Minnesota to escape with 27-24 victory and give fans a happy homecoming.
The key cogs in the game-winning drive were quarterback Mitch Leidner, who went 4-for-6 for 42 yards through the air, and running back Rodney Smith, who had 34 total yards on four touches. For the game Leidner completed 22 of his 32 pass attempts for a career-high 264 yards, and Smith had 16 carries for 94 yards while adding four catches for 58 yards.
Brooks was also a key part of the Golden Gophers’ offense against Ohio, with a 40-yard touchdown run on his third career carry on his way to finishing with 10 carries for 82 yards and two scores. Leidner’s 22 completions were split among nine receivers, led by wide receiver KJ Maye’s five receptions for 64 yards.
Injuries were again a big story for the Golden Gophers during Saturday’s game, with safety Antonio Johnson (concussion), cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun (knee), linebacker Cody Poock (rib), cornerback KiAnte Hardin (undisclosed) and wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky (concussion) all leaving the game. Left tackle Jonah Pirsig injured his left shoulder during Saturday’s game, but he was able to quickly return to action.
Leidner saved himself from another week of criticism, and head coach Jerry Kill from having to clumsily address Minnesota’s quarterback situation, but leading the Golden Gophers to 10 fourth quarter points against Ohio. Things will be a lot tougher when the conference schedule gets going, but calls for freshman Demry Croft to replace Leidner can be set aside for now.
Up next for the Golden Gophers is their Big Ten opener, and a road trip to take on Northwestern next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m.
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