Gophers Open Season with 51-23 Win over UNLV
August 29, 2013

Big plays in the second half propelled the Minnesota Gophers to a 51-23 win over the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the team’s season opener. UNLV had a large edge in total offense from scrimmage (419 yards to 320), but Minnesota totaled 238 yards on three returns of a kickoff, blocked field goal, and interception to open up the game.

“It’s a lot easier to teach after a win than a loss,” said Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, who noted the toll that the hot weather—92 degrees at the early-evening kickoff—and how the defense had to stay on the field against a no-huddle offense so much because of the nature of the scoring in the second half.

The Gophers started slowly, allowing the Rebels to score on their opening possession, a 13-play drive capped by a 26-yard touchdown run by Tim Cornett. Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson later countered with a 48-yard run to the end zone to put the Gophers ahead 10-6.

UNLV retook the lead on a fourth-and-six play from the Minnesota 34 when Nick Sherry scrambled and then threw to Devante Davis in the end zone.

The Gophers got another touchdown late in the half on a third down play from the 2 when Nelson, on the run, found Maxx Williams in the end zone.

Leading 16-13, the Gophers opened it up right away in the second half with Marcus Jones returning a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. Kill praised Jones, who has come back from two serious knee injuries and position switches, for his persistence and attitude. “It couldn’t have happened to a better kid.”

The next score came when UNLV tried a 37-yard field goal. Ra’Shede Hageman blocked the kick at the line, and in the ensuing scramble, it was batted ahead by the Gophers (something the team works on, according to kill). Martez Shabazz scooped the ball up at the Minnesota 49 and ran another 51 yards for a touchdown.

The Rebels got three points back on a field goal and were driving with a rapid-fire offense, Sherry firing short passes and reloading quickly. UNLV reached the Minnesota 14, when Briean Boddy-Calhoun picked off a pass and returned it 89 yards for a touchdown.

The Gophers completed the scoring in the final minute. The drive started with a 60-yard run by David Cobb to the 27. Mitch Leidner came in at quarterback and used the option to cover the rest, finally faking a handoff and keeping for a 4-yard touchdown run.

A variety of players filled in at running back after Donnell Kirkwood limped off the field with a turned ankle early in the third quarter. Kill spoke of the need for depth at all position as he looks ahead to a game at New Mexico State.

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