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Gophers RB Rodney Smith showing great vision in tough situations

Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Demry Croft (11) hands the ball off to running back Rodney Smith (1) in the first quarter against the Illinois Fighting Illini at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Oct. 21, 2017. Jesse Johnson / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Before it happened, Big Ten Network's color commentator Glen Mason called it "the play of the game." Afterward, Gophers coach P.J. Fleck raved about the main attribute in its execution.

Minnesota was facing third-and-5 and looking to break a 10-10 tie in the fourth quarter Saturday, Oct. 21, against Illinois when running back Rodney Smith took an inside handoff and sliced his way upfield for seven yards. It set up Kobe McCrary's go-ahead touchdown run two plays later in the Gophers' 24-17 victory over the Illini at TCF Bank Stadium.

"I think Rodney's greatest strength is his vision," Fleck said Monday. "He has incredible vision. That third and 5 toward the end of the game, I don't know if there is a back — not a back on this football team — that makes that cut and sees that type of flow."

Smith, a redshirt junior from Jonesboro, Ga., finished with 103 yards Saturday to move into 10th place on the Gophers' all-time rushing list with 2,373 yards. He started the season in 19th place.

If Smith continues on his pace of 78 yards per game, he will finish the regular season with 2,763 career yards, which would move him to eighth place, above Tellis Redmon's 2,481 and below David Cobb's 2,893.

Gophers will wave

The Gophers will participate in Iowa's new tradition of waving to the children's hospital during the first-quarter break of Saturday's game at Kinnick Stadium.

"For them to be able to do that, that's special," Fleck said. "Those are moments and memories, fans, players, the children in that hospital are going to remember the rest of their lives, and some of those children in that hospital have a very, very short life left, and I really look up to Iowa to do that. ... We'll participate in that, as well, and we look forward to it."

Gophers players and coaches make routine midweek visits to see patients to the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.


Fleck's "Row the Boat" culture was complemented by a silver accessory Tuesday. During his weekly news conference, his blue knit tie was affixed to his dress shirt with an oar-shaped clip.

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.