Behind Trey Potts' big day, Minnesota holds off Miami (Ohio), 31-26
MINNEAPOLIS — What looked at halftime to be a Minnesota team on its way to a comfortable victory over Miami (Ohio) made a 180-degree turn in the third quarter and ended up being a sweat-it-out contest on Saturday.
In the end, Trey Potts' big rushing day, a timely kickoff return by true freshman Mar'Keise "Bucky'' Irving and the team's first 50-yard field goal in three years enabled the Gophers to hold on for a 31-26 victory in front of 43,372 at Huntington Bank Stadium.
Potts, taking over as the No. 1 running back after Mohamed Ibrahim was lost for the season to a lower leg injury, rushed 34 times for 178 yards and two touchdowns, Tanner Morgan passed for two TDs and Matthew Trickett kicked a 50-yard field goal for the Gophers.
Brett Gabbert passed for 201 yards and a TD for Miami, while Jack Sorenson caught six passes for 97 yards and a score.
The victory moved the Gophers to 1-1 on the season heading to Saturday's game at Colorado, while Miami fell to 0-2.
Miami got the ball first, but the Gophers took it away when Justus Harris recovered a third-down fumble by Gabbert at 42.
The Gophers wasted no time cashing in the turnover, with Potts carrying six times for 30 yards on a seven-play drive capped by the sophomore's 3-yard touchdown run.
The RedHawks cut the lead to 7-3 on Graham Nicholson's 46-yard field goal with 14:18 left in the second quarter. Key to the 10-play, 50-yard drive was Gabbert's 9-yard gain plus a late-hit penalty on Gophers linebacker Donald Willis that moved the ball to the Minnesota 34.
The Gophers started the ensuing possession at their 11 after a holding penalty on the kickoff return, but Morgan's 31-yard connection with Dylan Wright, who got a foot just in bounds, put them at the 42. A 17-yard run by Potts moved the ball to the Miami 24.
Facing third-and-11 from the 25, Fleck called timeout to discuss the play. When play resumed, Morgan hit a wide-open Wright on a post route for the touchdown and 14-3 lead with 10:09 left in the second quarter.
Minnesota's defense forced a three-and-out and the Gophers took over at their 43 after a 30-yard punt, Morgan threw deep for Wright, who drew a pass interference penalty. The Gophers reached the 17 on an 18-yard run by Potts. A pass interference penalty Miami on third-and-11 from the 18 gave the Gophers new life at the 3. Three plays later, Morgan hit Daniel Jackson for a 6-yard TD pass and 21-3 lead with 3:56 left in the first half.
The Gophers went three-and-out to star the third quarter, and Miami capitalized with an eight-play, 59-yard drive capped by AJ Mayer's 1-yard TD run to trim the lead to 21-10. Key on the drive was Mayer's 26-yard hookup to the Minnesota 1 on third-and-3.
The RedHawks forced the Gophers to punt from their 49, then drove to the Minnesota 27 before their drive stalled. Nicholson's 45-yard field goal cut the Gophers lead to 21-13 with 1:39 left in the third quarter.
Riding momentum, the RedHawks pulled within 21-20 on Gabbert's 23-yard TD pass to Sorenson with 12:32 left in the fourth quarter. The TD made the score 21-19, but Miami received its second sideline warning and was penalized 5 yards to the 8. Instead of trying for two points, the RedHawks kicked the extra point.
Irving gave the Gophers a huge lift on the ensuing kickoff with a 43-yard return to the 47. From there, Potts took over carrying all five plays on a 53-yard drive that he capped with a 21-yard TD run with 9:53 left in the fourth quarter.
On Miami's next possession, Gophers safety Tyler Nubin intercepted a Gabbert pass over the middle and returned it 18 yards to the Miami 32. The Gophers couldn't move the ball, but Trickett kicked a 50-yard field goal for a 31-20 lead with 6:15 left. It was the Gophers' first field goal of 50 yards or longer since Emmitt Carpenter hit from 53 and 50 against Fresno State on Sept. 8, 2018.
The RedHawks weren't done, though. Gabbert hit Mac Hippenhammer for a 33-yard TD with 3:43 left, cutting Minnesota's lead to 31-26 after a failed two-point conversion attempt. Miami got new life on the drive Gabbert threw incomplete on fourth-and-10, but Gophers defensive tackle Rashad Cheney Jr. was called for roughing the passer.
The Gophers closed the game with Potts carrying five times for 27 yards, gaining two first downs, and Morgan kneeling three times in the victory formation.