- Associated Press
Thursday, October 29, 2020

For Minnesota, the delayed opening of the Big Ten football season was definitely not worth the wait.

Ditto for Maryland.


After being ousted from the Top 25 with a 49-24 thrashing at home by Michigan last Saturday, the Golden Gophers are determined to make sure the disheartening defeat doesn’t have a lasting impact.

“We learned as much as we could from that game, and then you move on. That’s it,” coach P.J. Fleck said.

Minnesota will be in full rebound mode Friday night on the road against the Terrapins, who are coming off a 43-3 embarrassment at Northwestern last weekend. In his first college start, Alabama transfer quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa produced a field goal on the opening possession, then was picked off on his second drive before spiraling downward.

“It’s more about executing the things the way he was coached,” coach Michael Locksley said. “You play that play and then you move on to the next. I expect Taulia to bounce back and play to the standard that we saw out of him during the course of our preparation for our season.”

Locksley is looking for the same from the entire team.

“The goal is for us to play up to the standard and expectations that we have here,” Locksley said.

Minnesota junior quarterback Tanner Morgan lost a fumble and threw an interception against the Wolverines, but like Tagovailoa, he’s not looking back.

“It’s all about response, so you take it and learn from it,” Morgan said. “I have to be better for our team to be successful, and I will be.”

Facing Maryland just might be what the Golden Gophers need to get back on track. Minnesota beat the Terps 52-10 last year behind Morgan, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for 30 yards as part of a rushing attack that amassed 321 yards.

HOMECOMING FOR MO

The brightest spot from Minnesota’s opener was the performance of running back Mohamed Ibrahim, who had a conference-leading 140 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. The junior, a native of Baltimore, needs 96 yards to become the 17th player in program history to reach 2,000 career rushing yards.

“Mo ran the ball really hard, and our guys up front did a great job of creating holes, creating lanes for Mo, and executing their job. That’s something that was really good to see against a really talented, physical defense,” Morgan said.

NO CROWD

The Terps will play their home opener without fans in the stadium because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When the scoreboard comes on, it’s about competing for the guy next to you,” Locksley said. “We need to get our energy, our juice, from within ourselves. I hate it for our fans that they’re not allowed into the stadium, but we understand how we need to play at home in Maryland Stadium.”

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

This trip to Maryland is the first of three Friday night games for the Gophers, who will host Iowa on Nov. 13 and Purdue on Nov. 20. Minnesota is 6-0 under Fleck in games not played on Saturday, including two bowl games and three season openers.

“It changes your schedule, but we’re going to attack everything head-on,” Fleck said. “We accept the challenge of that. We have a formula for everything -– whether it’s a four-day break, a three-day break, a nine-day break, an 11-day break.”

HAPPY RETURN

Maryland receiver Jeshaun Jones had a team-high five catches for 37 yards against Northwestern in his first action since a torn ACL forced him to miss the 2019 season.

“It was amazing. It was very emotional, especially not knowing if we were going to play this year,” he said. “I wish the outcome could have been different, but I definitely enjoyed being out there.”

FOR KICKS

The Gophers felt their greatest effect of COVID-19 last week among their specialists, with kicker Michael Lantz, punter Mark Crawford and kickoff specialist Grant Ryerse all sidelined.

Brock Walker made all of his kicks - three extra points and a short field goal - but recovery from hernia surgery limited him to pooch kickoffs that significantly aided Michigan’s field position.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. Usually those are the guys who don’t get hurt,” Fleck said, adding: “When they all get taken from you, that’s unique. That makes decision-making a little bit different.”


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