P.J. Fleck's second season as head football coach at the University of Minnesota is off to a good start after the Gophers routed New Mexico State 41-10 at TCF Bank Stadium Thursday night.
Zack Annexstad, the true freshman quarterback from Norseland, Minnesota, started for the Gophers and finished 16-of-33 for 220 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His first collegiate touchdown pass found the hands of wide receiver Tyler Johnson on a seven-yard slant to put the Gophers up 7-0 on their third offensive series of the game.
New Mexico State answered back a short time later with a game-tying touchdown pass, having taken, advantage of a fumble by Annexstad that gave the Aggies the ball deep in Minnesota territory.
A 45-yard field goal put the Aggies up 10-7 less than a minute into the second quarter, and that's when Minnesota exploded for 28 unanswered points to take a 35-10 lead into the half.
The scoring eruption featured
- 9-yard run by Seth Green.
- 3-yard run by Seth Green.
- 76-yard punt return by Antoine Winfield Jr.
- 33-yard reception by Tyler Johnson.
Minnesota did most of its damage on the ground, rushing for 276 yards. Senior running back Rodney Smith finished with 24 carries for 153 yards and freshman Mohamed Ibriham rushed for 101 yards, including a 75-yard burst in the fourth quarter.
Injuries could be a concern going forward as both Smith and Ibriham exited with apparent injuries, although neither appeared to be all that serious.
Annexstad's go-to targets through the air were Johnson, who had five grabs for 100 yards and the two touchdowns, and true freshman Rashad Bateman looked fantastic with five catches for 52 yards.
The defense also looked impressive, with core players Carter Coughlin, Thomas Barber and Winfield Jr., among others, having standout performances.
Minnesota continues the non-conference portion of the schedule at home against Fresno State on Saturday, Sep. 8.