Forever Young
October 26, 2018

On a rainy night in Minneapolis, the youthful University of Minnesota football team finally found a way to win, edging a determined group of Indiana Hoosiers, 38-31, in a rare Big Ten Friday game.

Clad in ugly gray uniforms referred to as “anthracite,” (a type of coal) the Gophers squandered a 31-9 lead in the fourth quarter but used a 67-yard touchdown pass from redshirt freshman Tanner Morgan to true freshman Rashod Bateman for the game-winner.

The Hoosiers were aided by a pair of fourth-quarter Gopher turnovers in their quest to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Both a fumble by Bryce Williams and a Morgan intercepted pass swung momentum in Indiana favor. Minnesota, on the other hand, suddenly struggled to get a first down.

Then a 10-play, 55-yard Hoosier touchdown drive capped by a Stevie Scott three-yard touchdown burst to make it 31-29. The two-point conversion attempt was successful on a pass from quarterback Peyton Ramsey to wide receiver Donovan Hale.

The Hoosiers then forced a Minnesota punt and started a drive at their own 24-yard line, but the Gopher defense held, and the team took over at their own 33-yard line with 1:45 showing on the clock. The first play from scrimmage resulted in the Morgan-to-Bateman touchdown pass.

Indiana’s comeback attempts were thwarted by a Ramsey fumble and an unsportsmanlike penalty on Brandon Wilson. Minnesota then simply ran out the clock to seal the victory, their first at home over Indiana since a 16-7 win in 2008 at the Metrodome. The vagaries of Big Ten scheduling have resulted in the Hoosiers’ noticeable absence in the Gopher State to the extent that Indiana previously never competed at TCF Bank Stadium. The significance of this of this had little effect on Gopher fans. Crowd size was announced 33,373, but simple observation revealed a throng of considerably less on a rain-drenched night.

The number of times in the long history of Gopher football teams that Minnesota has blown huge leads could easily fill a book. The memory of this weighted heavy on the minds of those few who were able to brave the weather through the fourth quarter.

Minnesota faced Indiana after consecutive losses to Maryland, Iowa, Ohio State, and (embarrassingly) Nebraska. But joy prevailed in the stadium after a Seth Green touchdown run and a pair of touchdown passes from Morgan to Tyler Johnson for a 21-9 halftime lead. In the third period an Emmit Carpenter field goal preceded a 17-yard touchdown scamper by Shannon Brooks. Then the roof fell in before the 67-yard bomb from Morgan to Bateman.

“We found a way to win at the end,” said coach P.J. Fleck. Who indicated the winning play was called by offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca.

“We’ve got a lot to work on,” the coach said after the game. “We didn’t do well in a number of areas.

“We did do a good job of keeping everything in front of us for three quarters, then we started turning the ball over.” He praised linebacker Carter Coughlin for his fourth-quarter hit on Ramsey that resulted in a fumble. “That, in effect, ended the game.

“Our offensive line also is getting better.” (Fleck starts seven freshmen on offense.)

The coach remains the eternal optimist, but for the most of the fourth quarter, the anthracite-clad Gophers reverted to playing with the grace and style of the 19th Century coal miners they resemble. All that was missing were candles on their hardhats.

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