Gophers Survive another MAC opponent, beat Ohio 27-24
September 26, 2015

A three-yard touchdown run by Shannon Brooks with 30 seconds left gave the Minnesota Gophers a 27-24 win over the Ohio Bobcats, the second straight three-point win by Minnesota over a team from the Mid-American Conference.

Unlike last week, when Gophers coach Jerry Kill attracted more attention with his petulant post-game news conference (following an offensively challenged 10-7 win over Kent State), Kill was measured in his comments. He spoke of the poise of his young players in coming through after seven starters came out of the game and didn’t return and was grateful for the time outs he had left to patch together a secondary to fend off a last-second Hail Mary attempt by the Bobcats.

As in any close game, this one had enough breaks that could have changed the outcome. Minnesota special teams made several mistakes although only one that cost them points.

Craig James twice chose not to signal for a fair catch in the first quarter and muffed both punts when he was quickly hit. Fortunately for the Gophers, they recovered both.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Minnesota held a 17-14 lead when Mitch Bonnstetter punted for the Bobcats. James, with a little more room, caught the ball at his 32 and started back when he was stripped of the ball by Cody Grilliot. Keith Heitzman returned the fumble 32 yards to the 12, and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Everett Williams put the ball at the 6. Ohio, which was penalized nine times in the game, moved back five yards after a false start, but stocky A. J. Ouellette bulled through the line for a touchdown on the next play, putting the Bobcats up 21-17.

The Gophers started with poor field position as Brooks, hugging the sideline, put his hands out for a kickoff by Josiah Yazdani was sailing out of bounds. The ball ticked off Brooks fingers, and the Gophers had the ball at their own 6, rather than the 35, where the ball would have been placed if the kickoff had gone out of bounds on its own. Though starting deep in his end, quarterback Mitch Leidner led Minnesota to the Ohio 6 before stalling, allowing Ryan Santoso to cut the lead to 21-20 with a 24-yard field goal with 8:44 left.

Ohio quarterback Derrius Vick worked the clock and got the ball far enough for Yazdani to line up for a 36-yard try. Yazdani had made only one of three field goals this year, and it appeared he’d be one for four as his attempt hit the right upright. However, Yazdani himself was flagged for a false start, negating the play and giving him another chance, this one from 41 yards. Yazdani connected this time, and the Bobcats opened up a 24-20 edge with 2:36 left.

Minnesota had all its time outs and got nearly to midfield when Leidner underthrew a pass to May and into the hands of cornerback Ian Wells. However, this break saved the game for the Gophers when Wells dropped the ball. The Gophers continued their drive and completed it with Brooks’s run.

With the victory close, Minnesota special teams broke down again, allowing Daz’ Patterson to return Santoso’s kickoff from the 2 to the Gophers 43. Vick tried to get into field goal position but could get only a seven-yard completion on his three passes, leaving Yazdani with a 53-yard field-goal attempt. That was taken away when the Bobcats incurred a five-yard penalty for delay of game. Minnesota used a time out at that time and another after Vick returned with the rest of the offense for a Hail Mary try. Vick threw to the goal line on the right side, and Charles “Ace” Rogers knocked the ball away, giving the Gophers the win and upping their record to 3-1. In addition to the win over Kent State, Minnesota also had an overtime win at Colorado State.

Against Kent State the Minnesota defense stood out as much as its offense struggled. However, Ohio and Minnesota both moved the ball in the first half, each team gaining 225 yards from scrimmage.

Defensive breakdowns helped the Bobcats to their first touchdown, Vick twice finding wide-open receivers, the second time with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Papi White, who had easily beat Eric Murray.

Late in the first quarter Brooks broke tackles and dragged defenders for a 23-yard run to midfield. Three plays later, early in the second quarter, Brooks squirmed through the line, found daylight, and outraced pursuers for a 40-yard run into the end zone, allowing the Gophers to tie the game 7-7.

Ohio responded with a 75-yard drive, capped by a 10-yard touchdown pass from Vick to Sebastian Smith. Minnesota came back and was helped by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Blair Brown. Instead of facing a third and seven at the Ohio 36, the penalty gave the Gophers a first down at the 21. Four plays later Leidner snuck in from the one to tie the game.

Santoso’s 49-yard field goal accounted for the only points of the third quarter, setting up a final wild period that the Gophers survived.

Leidner, who had taken his share of criticism for the Kent State game, completed 22 of 32 against Ohio for 264 yards and, thanks to Wells’s butterfingers, did not throw an interception. Vick was 17 for 27 for 194 yards.

Rodney Smith led all rushers with 94 yards while Brooks had 82 on 10 carries.

Its nonconference schedule now complete, Minnesota will head to Northwestern for the Big Ten opener.

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