College Football: Gophers escape Colorado with 23-20 overtime win over Rams
By Andy Greder St. Paul Pioneer Press FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- The Gophers needed overtime to outlast Colorado State on Saturday afternoon. Minnesota kicker Ryan Santoso connected on a 18-yard field goal to beat the Rams 23-20 in front of a sellout...
By Andy Greder
St. Paul Pioneer Press
FORT COLLINS, Colo. - The Gophers needed overtime to outlast Colorado State on Saturday afternoon.
Minnesota kicker Ryan Santoso connected on a 18-yard field goal to beat the Rams 23-20 in front of a sellout crowd of 32,500 at Hughes Stadium.
Gophers running back Rodney Smith had five carries in the extra frame and finished with 21 carries for 108 yards.
It was coach Jerry Kill’s biggest non-conference victory in his five years at Minnesota. But it didn’t receive much revelry.
When Santoso’s kick cleared the uprights, Gophers players on the bench either walked or lightly jogged onto the field to celebrate with the field goal unit.
In Colorado State’s opening possession of overtime, Gophers linebacker Cody Poock forced a fumble by Dalyn Dawkins, and defensive tackle Scott Ekpe recovered on the first play.
Trailing 20-17 with 55 seconds left in regulation, Colorado State backup quarterback Coleman Key led a seven-play, 55-yard drive that tied the game 20-20 with a Wyatt Bryan field goal as time expired.
The drive was kept alive with a pass interference penalty on Gophers safety Antonio Johnson and a 23-yard completion from Key to Steven Walker.
The Gophers made their own comeback less than a minute earlier. Down 17-13 with three minutes remaining, a struggling Minnesota offense put together a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to take a 20-17 lead.
Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner connected with a leaping KJ Maye for a 22-yard touchdown pass with 55 seconds remaining.
Colorado State, a 10-3 team in 2014, fell behind 13-7 early in the third quarter after Leidner threw a short swing pass to Drew Wolitarsky, who ran past the Rams’ defense for a 38-yard touchdown.
Leidner, who struggled in conversion situations throughout the game, finished with a career high 45 pass attempts and 23 completions for 233 yards and two touchdowns.
He didn’t throw in overtime.
The Gophers offense outgained the Rams 389-291, but were 7 for 21 on third and fourth down conversions.
The Rams took a 17-13 lead on the second play of the fourth quarter when Key found wide receiver Joe Hansley wide open for a 49-yard touchdown.
The Rams’ biggest play of the game could have been a coverage breakdown between cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun and third-string safety Adekunle Ayinde, who was playing in place of injured starter Damarius Travis and backup Ace Rogers.
The Gophers ran 43 plays in the first half without a touchdown, but scored within three plays in the second half. Leidner threw a short swing pass to Wolitarsky, who ran past the Rams defense for a 38-yard touchdown.
Minnesota’s offense was non-existent for the opening 22 minutes of the first half. The Gophers had six drives without a first down and 28 total yards.
They picked up their first first down at 7:30 in the second quarter and went on a 15-play, 81-yard drive that ended with a field goal. Minnesota went nine plays and 42 yards and another field goal on the next drive.
The Gophers most-successful drive of the first half fizzled when tight end Nick Hart failed to pull in a diving catch for a touchdown. They settled for a Santoso 35-yard field goal.
In a two-minute hurry up before the half, Santoso drilled a 50-yard field goal.
Colorado State took a 7-0 lead with a 17-yard touchdown run from Dalyn Dawkins. A 15-yard kick-catch interference penalty by Gophers’ Eric Murray gave the Rams better field position at their own 36. Then Dawkins took a draw 31 yards before Murray hauled him down.
After allowing a 79-yard drive, the Gophers defense limited the Rams to 34 yards and two first down on seven drives to finish the half.
The Gophers defense was without starting safety Damarius Travis and backup Ace Rogers, giving Ayinde his first career start.
Meanwhile, the Rams were without All-America wide receiver Rashard Higgins.
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