Game 540: Minnesota “Flecks’s” new found energy over Middle Tennessee, 34-3
Minneapolis – Under new HC P.J. Fleck, the Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-0) dominated Middle Tennessee State of ConferenceUSA, 34-3, in our Game 540, our first ever at the University of Minnesota. The Gophers head into Big Ten play with a high, new energy level brought to Minneapolis by their new head coach who led Western Michigan last season to a 13-1 record, the MAC championship, and the school’s first bid ever to the Cotton Bowl. Gopher fans anticipate great things from Fleck. He’s brought new energy to the program and brought more optimism with only one season of recruiting for the Gophers under his belt. The future begins now according to Gopher fans.
The Gophers shall rise again…
Guest Game Analyst (GGA) Anthony Cavalli and I met Dave and Bob, big-time Golden Gopher tailgaters, at a local bar, Hopcat, home of 80 beers on tap. The die-hard, long-time Gopher fans confirmed that Fleck brings more to this program than any other new HC they remember that came to Minnesota over the years, even Lou Holtz. Dave’s still mad at him for taking all is Gopher recruits to Notre Dame after he announced his exodus from the Big Ten school who hasn’t played in The Rose Bowl since 1962.
Anthony, a resident physician and former Air Force Flight Surgeon studying Physical Medicine at the U of M Medical Center, attends Minnesota as both a student and works as a staff member. He offered collegefootballfan.com a unique experience forty years since our own college graduation. We got to sit in the student section! Great view! Revisited perspective (still going back to college full time if I ever hit the lottery).
The Gophers led 6-3 over the ConferenceUSA Blue Raiders (1-2) with only 6:02 in the first half. Conor Rhoda’s 24-yard pass to Frosh WR Demetrius Douglas extended the Golden Gopher lead. But the icing on the first half score occurred on the next MTSU possession when DB Jacob Huff picked off a John Urzua pass and returned it 67 yards to make the score 20-3 at the break.
Anthony has a great set-up to attend Golden Gopher games, and after this one he found out his college football experience in Minneapolis is about to get better. When he moved to Minneapolis a year and a half ago, he moved into an apartment right along the Blue line Light Rail system. I caught the train right at the airport to meet him at his local Light Line station. From the same station, we hopped on the Green line to take it past US Bank Stadium, home of the Vikings, and got dropped off within a short walk to TCF Stadium (Capacity 50,800) for the 2:30 kickoff. After buying a student and student guest ticket, we viewed the U of M band performance finishing with their great fight song, “Minnesota Rouser”. I enjoyed a Summit Ale, a local brew, from the tap nearby, and Anthony insisted I had to try cheese curds, a staple of local Minneapolis cuisine. It’s a good thing I only bought the eight-pack. I could have eaten a lot more covered in the recommended Ranch dressing.
Later, we met fired-up Gopher fans Dave and Bob around the corner from Anthony’s place at Hopcats, a growing Midwest chain. Weekly big-time tailgaters at all the home games, they extended Anthony an invitation to meet up with them in the parking lot before the Maryland game in two weeks. In addition, we already made a point to meet up to tailgate back in Jersey when the Gophers visit Rutgers, the Birthplace of College football, in 2019. It will be their first trip ever to RU, and we’ve already got the tailgate place for them and their Gopher Tales group to meet up with us. We look forward to it already. That date could possibly be in line to be our Game 600 – another celebration for sure. Back to game 540…
In the third, LB Thomas Barber picked off another Ursua pass (19 for 34, 135 yards, 2 INTs). Forty-four yards later, 240-lb RB Kobe McCrary (23 carries for 107, 3 TDs) ran through a gaping hole to his right to give Minnesota (Ski-U-Mah) a 27-3 lead. The Golden Gophers held the Blue Raiders in check for the balance of the game holding MTSU to 230 offensive yards overall. McCrary scored again from the two to finalize the score, 34-7. Granted, it was a dominant performance by the Gophers over a Sun Belt team in a rebuilding process, but it turned out to be a great intro for us to other Gopher games as this program should continue to thrive in The Big Ten under the energetic Fleck, a former Rutgers assistant under Greg Schiano.
As stated, the Gophers host Maryland (2-0) in two weeks after a bye week. The Terrapins host UCF this Saturday. Middle Tennessee returns to Murfreesboro to host Bowling Green (0-3). Collegefootballfan.com follows Game 540 with a Boys’ weekend trip to Annapolis to see Navy (2-0,1-0) host the Cincinnati Bearcats (2-1, 1-0) in an American Athletic Conference game. Touring Annapolis, tailgating, and Cigar smoking to be enjoyed. We look forward to returning.