Gophers Hold Off Miami for 29-23 Win
September 17, 2011

Safety Kim Royston knocked down a 20-yard fourth-down pass in the end zone as time ran out as the Minnesota hung on for a 29-23 win over Miami (Ohio), the first win for the Gophers under coach Jerry Kill, who returned to the sidelines after a seizure in the final seconds of last week’s loss to New Mexico State sent him to the hospital for five days.

Kill said he was happy for his kids, that it was “good for them to feel good.” The coach was shadowed on the sideline by team physician Pat Smith, who was determined to keep Kill hydrated. “Doc Smith about wore me out with that water,” said Kill, who admitted being nervous before the game that “did all right once I got into the game.”

“We had some opportunities,” said Miami coach Don Treadwell. “I think when you’re in a game with a Big Ten opponent, and you’re driving the ball down the field and you still have a chance to win, that is a positive.”

The inability of the RedHawks to contain Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray was costly. Gray rushed for 171 yards (8 more than he had passing), often scrambling out of trouble as he broke Sandy Stephens’s 1961 record of 160 yards rushing by a Gophers quarterback.

Gray led Minnesota to a tie-breaking touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Running back Duane Bennett, on the punt squad, later blocked a Miami punt from the 30 yard line, eventually corralled the ball, and took it in for a touchdown for a 29-13 lead (with Chris Hawthorne missing the point-after). “I said we would probably need a special teams play,” said Kill, and Bennett’s big play gave the Gophers a comfortable margin with 10:23 left. “We blocked a punt, and that is how we won the game. If we don’t block that punt, we wouldn’t have won the game.”

However, the RedHawks took barely two-and-a-half minutes to counter, with Zac Dysert escaping a rush and throwing on the run to Dewan Scott, who was left open in the end zone. Miami stopped the Gophers on a fourth-down play and got the ball back at its 34 with 2:58 left.

Dysert, who completed 27 of 47 passes for 325 yards, went to his favorite receiver, Nick Harwell, and also rushed for a first down on a third-and-nine play to bring the RedHawks within range of the end zone. However, a pair of passes in the middle of the field that were short of a first down took time off the clock and eventually left Miami with a fourth-and-three at the Minnesota 20 with six seconds left.

Dysert had a shot at Chris Givens in the end zone but Royston came over to knock the ball away, ending the game.

Harwell, who missed Miami’s opener (a 17-6 loss at Miami) because of disciplinary reasons, caught 12 passes for 162 yards, and Chris Givens added 7 catches for 84 yards.

In the hospital, Kill had more seizures on Tuesday and in between talked to coordinators Tracy Claeys and Matt Limegrover about strategy for the Miami game. “It’s a nice moment,” he said of his players chanting his name in the locker room after the game, but really the assistant coaches deserve credit for this win.

“The coaches did a great job putting together a game play, and the players executed it.”

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