Andy Greder / St. Paul Pioneer Press
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.
MINNEAPOLIS — After Tuesday's practice, Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck pivoted on the quarterback competition between Demry Croft and Conor Rhoda as the time to name a starter dwindles. "If we think we are going to have one quarterback or need one quarterback through this entire season, I would be crazy to think that," Fleck said. "As we go forward, I have to start looking at some options." During Big Ten media day on July 25, Fleck's stated his preference is to "home in on one" quarterback, and the Tuesday, Aug. 15, comment appears to shift that stance.
MINNEAPOLIS — Sports Minneapolis will respond on behalf of the city and U.S. Bank Stadium to a request for information to be a potential host for 2026 World Cup games. U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings' home field, was named Tuesday as one of 49 stadiums in 44 cities to be considered as locations for the pinnacle international men's soccer competition, which is expected to be hosted across the U.S., Canada and Mexico in nine years.
MINNEAPOLIS — Adrian Heath had an eye on midfielder Ethan Finlay during the 2014 Disney Pro Soccer Classic preseason tournament in Orlando, Fla. Heath was coaching Orlando City in the United Soccer League and wanted to acquire Finlay, who was playing for the Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer. But Heath said the talks were scuttled when Finlay, who played sparingly in his first two seasons in Columbus, had a strong tournament and used it as a springboard to 23 goals and 20 assists combined over the 2014-15 seasons with the Crew.
MINNEAPOLIS — Gophers strength and conditioning coach Dan Nichol scowls often as he stalks the sideline during a preseason football practice. When two players were kicked out of a practice last weekend, the authoritative assistant was called on to escort them to the locker room.