Andy Greder / St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS—One of Minneapolis North coach Charles Adams' favorite memories of Tyler Johnson is commemorated in a photo in his school office. It doesn't depict Johnson scoring one of his many dazzling touchdowns at North, nor does it portray the celebration after a big win during the Polars' rise from two-win team in 2012 to consecutive state tournament appearances in 2014-15.
MINNEAPOLIS — Tennessee players dunked footballs into a tailored plastic garbage can after takeaways in their double-overtime win over Georgia Tech on Monday, while Miami (Fla.) started a new tradition by presenting players who force turnovers with a thick, 10-karat gold chain on the sideline in their victory over Bethune-Cookman on Saturday.
MINNEAPOLIS — After missing the Holiday Bowl because of a suspension, Gophers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. relished his return to the field during Minnesota's season-opening victory last week. "I'm enjoying it so much more now," Winfield said Wednesday, Sept. 6. "I just love being out there with my brothers and just being able to compete, especially here for Minnesota."
MINNEAPOLIS — When the Gophers travel to play Oregon State of the Pac-12 on Saturday, Sept. 9, it will be their last nonconference football game against a top-tier program until 2020. For the time being, an upcoming slate against programs mostly from mid-major conferences seems just fine with first-year coach P.J. Fleck, who has yet to put his stamp on future Minnesota schedules.
MINNEAPOLIS — It was Gophers' coach P.J. Fleck's decision to hold defensive end Tai'yon Devers out of last Thursday's 17-7 season-opening victory over Buffalo at TCF Bank Stadium, the coach said Monday, Sept. 4. Devers, who made a splash with a pair of strip sacks in last year's opener, did not suit up to play versus the Bulls but, was on the sideline. "I just held him out," Fleck said Monday. "He's not ready yet. He's got some things that I feel like — we are going to wait another week and bring him back after that."
MINNEAPOLIS — Gophers quarterback Conor Rhoda earned the start in the season opener against Buffalo on Thursday night,Aug. 31, at TCF Bank Stadium. Gophers coach P.J. Fleck announced late in fall camp that both Rhoda and Demry Croft would both play against the Bulls. He called them "co-starters," but Rhoda got the distinction of the first snap. Croft and Rhoda each led first-half touchdown drives. Rhoda threw a 61-yard TD to Tyler Johnson, while Croft was 2 for 2 for 36 yards on a 10-play drive capped by a Shannon Brooks' 1-yard TD run. The Gophers won 17-7.
MINNEAPOLIS — P.J. Fleck's coaching philosophy was molded during his first game as a wide receiver at Northern Illinois. That experience will inform how he handles juggling two quarterbacks in his first game as Gophers head coach. After building a reputation as "the true freshman that never dropped a pass" in 1999, Fleck let a ball go right through his hands early in his debut. Western Illinois cornerback K.J. Friday intercepted that pass and returned it 57 yards during the Huskies' 27-21 upset loss to the then-Division I-AA Leathernecks.
MINNEAPOLIS — Daletavious McGhee received his "Duke" nickname from his grandmother after they watched "Dukes of Hazard" more than a decade ago in Georgia. The moniker stuck from peewee to high school football, and he brought it with him to Minnesota in 2013. The Gophers safety has now built a name for himself on the field, too. McGhee, a senior projected to start this season, worked his way from redshirt to backup in 2014-15 and up to part-time starter last season, when he and the Gophers defense became linked to a spike in targeting penalties against them.
MINNEAPOLIS — Brent Kallman's debut season in Major League Soccer was trending upward. After playing in Minnesota United's third-ever match — when the Loons earned the club's first MLS point as an expansion franchise at Colorado on March 18 — Kallman went on to make 15 consecutive starts. The Woodbury, Minnesota, center back, who was promoted from the club's era in the second division of U.S. soccer, was establishing himself as a key defensive player.
MINNEAPOLIS — Gophers coaches are calling for more consistency from Rashad Still, whose 38 career receptions are most among Minnesota's wide receivers. With quarterbacks Demry Croft and Conor Rhoda both expected to play in the season opener against Buffalo next Thursday, Aug. 31, the duo will be throwing to an inexperienced group of receivers. After Minnesota's spring game in April, coach P.J. Fleck addressed the lack of depth, saying Still needed to be the "bell cow" for the passing game. "We are going to throw that guy the ball," Fleck said.