Gophers Run Past Middle Tennessee
September 16, 2017

Murfreesboro is a quiet community with approximately 10,000 residents located at the geographic center of Tennessee, and is the site of a significant Civil War battle. It also is the home of Middle Tennessee University (MTU).

MTU is known in Minnesota as a basketball school, conquerors of the Gophers in the last NCAA Tournament. Minnesota avenged that loss Saturday, albeit on the football field, when the Gophers toppled Middle Tennessee, 34-3, at TCF Bank Stadium.

Third-string running back Kobe McCrary scored on running plays of 14, five, and one yards to propel the Gophers to victory. McCrary was substituted after injuries sidelined Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks.

“With us,” said McCrary after the game ended, “it’s always next man up. We running backs motivate and lean on each other.” In fact, fourth-stringer Jonathan Femi-Cole also saw action in the blowout.

Minnesota started the game by ramming it down the Raider throats, but 10 successful running plays resulted in only a 3-0 lead on an Emmit Carpenter field goal. Two more Gopher series of downs were futile, and the first quarter ended at 3-0.

Middle Tennessee was without its stalwart quarterback and coach’s son Brent Stockstill and mostly were as erratic on offense as a ship minus its rudder. Cannon Rooker’s 45-yard field goal tied the score at 3-3.

Carpenter answered with a 47-yard field goal, and it was 6-3. A bad MTU punt set up the first Minnesota touchdown drive, McCrary scoring on a 14-yard run.

The game turned on a 67-yard touchdown run by Jacob Huff after he intercepted an errant John Urzua pass. The first half ended with a 20-3 lead, and the Raiders were cooked.

Halftime stats showed Minnesota with 121 total rushing yards (to MSU’s 29). Conor Rhoda completed only five of 10 passes. Urzua, meanwhile. completed 13 of 25 passes. In the second half, Minnesota turned the ball over to McCrary, and he finished with 107 yards on 23 carries.

(Smith also passed the century mark in carries with 112 yards, participating in the first half only.)

“We didn’t need to sling the ball around,” Rhoda told reporters. “Not when you can get five or six yards by rushing.”

The icing on the cake came with a McCrary third-quarter TD plunge. For good measure, he added a five-yard tally in the fourth period.

“We played well in all three areas—offense, defense, and special teams,” coach PJ Fleck said. “We have to stay healthy, and I need to be more creative on offense.”

The Gophers have a bye week before facing Maryland at home in the Big 10 opener.

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