Well, Minnesota is 3-1, and surely the wins are more important than the fact that back-to-back victories over MAC teams have come by a combined six points.
For the second week in a row, the Gophers were challenged at home by a visiting MAC opponent. Last weekend, it was a 10-7 survival against Kent State. Saturday, Minnesota needed a touchdown in the final minute — and the help of a weird delay of game penalty — to escape Ohio, 27-24.
The fourth quarter was a wild one that featured 20 total points. Minnesota entered the period ahead, 17-14, but Ohio scored not a half minute into the fourth to take a 21-17 lead. Then the teams traded field goals, the latter belonging to the Bobcats to boost their lead to 24-20 with two and a half minutes remaining.
From there, Mitch Leidner engineered a terrific drive that didn't look much like the Gophers, who have struggled offensively all season. That two-minute drive lasted 11 plays and 78 yards and finished with Shannon Brooks’ second touchdown run of the game, a score that put Minnesota on top, 27-24, with 30 seconds left.
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Ohio returned the ensuing kickoff into Minnesota territory, and with seven seconds left lined up for a 53-yard field-goal attempt. Jerry Kill called a timeout, and Ohio kicked the not-to-be-counted field goal anyway. That action by Ohio, though, earned the Bobcats a delay of game penalty that sent them back five yards and knocked them out of field-goal range. To repeat: The delay of game flag came after a timeout, a strange occurrence to be certain. Ohio’s Hail Mary try was knocked down, and Minnesota walked away victorious.
The Gophers mustered a pretty strong offensive showing after woes on that side of the ball plagued them through the first three weeks. Minnesota accumulated 468 total yards, 264 yards through the air and 204 on the ground. Leidner didn’t throw a touchdown pass but completed 22 of his 32 passing attempts. Rodney Smith had 94 yards, but it was Brooks who starred, going for 82 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries, the first 10 carries of his collegiate career.
While Minnesota has made its fans sweat in the last few games with narrow wins against Colorado State, Kent State and Ohio — all wins coming by three points — it is 3-1 with its sole loss coming against TCU, one of the top teams in the country.
The Gophers open Big Ten play against Northwestern next weekend.