BOULDER, Colo. — Gophers defensive end Boye Mafe nearly registered a sack on the first possession of the 30-0 win Saturday over Colorado at Folsom Field. On the second series, fellow D-end Esezi Otomewo also couldn’t bring down Buffaloes quarterback Brendon Lewis.
It looked like the first two games of the season when Minnesota couldn’t log a sack against Ohio State nor Miami (Ohio).
On the third series, Mafe notched his first of two sacks and the first of Minnesota’s four sacks; it set the tone in Minnesota’s first road shutout of a program from a Power Five conference since 1977.
“We wanted to play it together and be on the same page,” said defensive Thomas Rush, who had the two other sacks. “It was making sure we work together and keep the quarterback in the pocket. I feel like we accomplished that.”
Minnesota limited Colorado to six first downs and 63 total yards (82 passing and minus-19 rushing). It’s the fewest rushing yards allowed by the U since at least 2000.
Head coaches seem to often meet on the field well before the game, shake hands, exchange pleasantries, talk shop or maybe share a joke. But that didn’t happen between Fleck and Colorado’s Karl Dorrell on Saturday.
Fleck enjoys doing it and was ready and willing. “I didn’t get a chance to shake Karl’s hand before the game,” Fleck said postgame. “But they got a really good football team.”
TRICKETT’S ROUGH DAY
New kicker Matthew Trickett was a perfect 10 for 10 on field goals and extra points in his first two games at Minnesota. But he struggled Saturday.
The transfer from Kent State missed a 24-yard field goal on the U’s first possession and put an extra point off an upright near the end of the first half.
Early in the second half, Trickett missed a 46-yard field goal, but he made a 33-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. Trickett finished 3-for-4 on extra points on Saturday.
“He’s a really good kicker; he’s very talented,” Fleck said. “I believe in him, and he knows that.”
Tricket made his two previous field goal kicks against Ohio State from 46 yards and a career long of 50 against Miami (Ohio). He was eight for eight on extra points in the first two games.
Minnesota had other special-teams issues. Punter Mark Crawford had line-drive travel 30 yards, but with a 57-yard boot, he averaged 43.2 yards per punt; and Bryce Williams fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half and had to fall on it, forcing the U to start a drive on its own 11-yard line.
After missing the first two games, top receiver Chris Autman-Bell made his 2021 season debut with six targets, four receptions for 39 yards, including a leaping 33-yard grab.
“He had a couple of big plays (Saturday); it’s just what he does,” quarterback Tanner Morgan said.
Morgan went 11 for 17 for 164 yards, with a team-high-tying six targets going to Daniel Jackson, who had four grabs for 39 yards.
Dylan Wright had the biggest play in the passing game, a 39-yard catch and run, where the 6-foot-3 215-pound wideout slapped the helmet of a Buffaloes defensive back to gain more yards.
After Mo Ibrahim was lost for the season after 30 carries in the season opener and Trey Potts had 34 carries in Week 2, the question was what other running backs could step up to take some of the workload off Potts.
On Saturday, the answer was emphatic: true freshman Mar’Keise Irving had 15 carries for 89 yards (5.9 per carry). He started with a splash as his first colleague carry went for 15 yards. He first turned heads in a game, with a 41-yard kickoff return against Miami last week.
With the game under control late, redshirt freshman Ky Thomas had seven carries for 66 yards (9.4 per carry) and his first career touchdown.
Meanwhile, Williams fumbled on his only carry, and Cam Wiley dressed but didn’t play. They were higher on the depth chart to start the season.
Defensive tackle Rashad Cheney did not make the trip to Boulder. The third-year player participated in the first two games against Ohio State and Miami (Ohio), when he was flagged for a late hit. Fleck said it would be addressed internally. … Linebacker Jack Gibbens led the U with six tackles. … Colorado will come to Minnesota next September to compete the home-and-home series.