The Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated the Western Illinois Leathernecks 29-12 Saturday on the legs of quarterback Mitch Leidner and running backs David Cobb and Rodrick Williams.
The Gophers erased a five-point deficit late in the third quarter and pulled away in the fourth.
The game was over when…The Gopher defense forced a three-and-out following a Leidner fumble at the Leatherneck one-yard line. The Leathernecks trailed only by a field goal, but were only able to get two more first downs and failed to get to its own 40-yard line the remaining 20 minutes and 52 seconds of game time.
The reason for optimism is…The Gophers coaching staff has made very good halftime adjustments this season. Saturday, the Gophers outscored the Leathernecks 22-6 in the second half and out gained them 225-121 total yards. Also, the Gophers held the Leathernecks to 1-for-7 on third downs while converting on 3-of-5 on offense.
The reason to worry is…The Gophers have gotten off to a slow start in all three games so far this season. Starting slow may work against UNLV, New Mexico State and Western Illinois, but it will not against Wisconsin, Michigan and Northwestern.
The unsung heroes were…Derrick Engel on offense. The wide receiver caught two third down passes to move the chains. His only other catch was a second down reception that set up a third-and-one opportunity. Theiren Cockran on defense. The defensive end recorded game-highs of two sacks and three tackles-for-a-loss. Peter Mortell on special teams. The punter finished with 45.4 yards per punt, including one inside the 20-yard line and a long of 51.