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Gophers Beat Eastern Michigan 25-6

Gophers Beat Eastern Michigan 25-6

The Gophers took care of business and beat Eastern Michigan 25-6, Saturday night. Minnesota used a strong rushing attack and stifling defense to control the Eagles, who never really threatened the Gophers. The Gophers are 2-0 to start the season for the second consecutive year and the fifth time in seven years under coach P.J. Fleck. The Gophers are 19-1 against non-conference opponents in the Fleck era and rank second in the FBS in non-conference winning percentage since 2017.  Minnesota extended its winning streak to four games, dating back to last season.

Defensive Dominance

The MVP of the game was Joe Rossi’s defensive unit, which held the Eagles to six points, 81 rushing yards, and 71 passing yards.  Eastern Michigan’s quarterback Austin Smith went nine for 20 for 71 yards and an interception. The Eagles only managed nine first downs and were three for 10 on third-down conversions.

The second half was particularly dominant for the Gophers. They held Eastern Michigan to four yards on 14 plays, including a net loss of three rushing yards. Minnesota’s pass rush was relentless and recorded four sacks and five tackles-for-loss.

A Strong Rushing Attack

The Gophers also finally got the run game going, with a strong effort from true freshman Darius Taylor and senior Sean Tyler. Taylor had a career-high with 193 yards on 33 carries and a touchdown, while Tyler rushed for 93 yards. Taylor started the game slowly and had eight rushing for 44 yards in the first half, but ran 25 times for 149 in the second half. Taylor’s touchdown, the first of his career, was a 2‐yard run in the second quarter. He added 13 receiving yards and finished with 206 all‐purpose yards. Taylor’s 193 yards was the second most by a Gopher freshman since Darrell Thompson ran for 205 yards against Bowling Green in 1986.

Athan Kaliakmanis was efficient but not spectacular and finished the game 10-15 for 117 yards with one rushing touchdown. He threw one interception, which was tipped by Brevyn Spann-Ford in the fourth quarter. Kaliakmanis’ one‐yard touchdown run in the third quarter was the second of his career. He spread the ball around and completed passes to five different receivers.

Minnesota finished the game with 28 first downs, and they controlled the clock for over 39 minutes. The Gophers used explosive plays to move the ball and had 16 offensive plays of more than ten yards. They didn’t punt the ball during the game, marking the first time accomplishing that feat since beating Michigan State last year.

Special Team Improvement

The Gophers special teams improved from the Nebraska game, led by a strong performance by Dragon Kesich. Kesich was three for three on field goal attempts and hit both of the PATs. All six of his kickoffs went for touchbacks, which prevented the Eagles from building any momentum with their special teams. Eli Mau also blocked a punt in the fourth quarter that went out of the endzone for safety. It was the first Gophers blocked punt since 2020 and the first safety since 2021.

Solid Attendance 

The Gophers had 48,101 fans in attendance at the game, about 5,000 less than the Nebraska sellout. Through two home games, Minnesota has had 101,730 fans, an average of 50,865 per game. The Gophers wore their “Dark Mode” uniforms for the first time, which featured a black helmet, jersey, and pants.

Players Making Plays

Prediction Grade: A-

Here is our original prediction about the game:

The Gophers will focus on establishing the run game, while Rossi’s defense will pressure the Eagles into making mistakes. Minnesota’s Achilles heel continues to be their special teams, and the Eagles can take advantage of that. It won’t be enough for the Eagles to win, and the Gophers will start the season 2-0. Gophers win 33-9

This seems like a solid prediction. The Gophers focused on establishing the run while the defensive held the Eagles to a couple of field goals. Eastern Michigan’s special teams were a non-factor, as the Gophers didn’t give them the opportunity to make big plays. The Gophers beat Eastern Michigan 25-6, and took care of business as expected.

Next Up

  • Opponent: North Carolina (#20)
  • Date: Saturday, September 16
  • Game: 2:30 PM CST
  • Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Gophers Beat Eastern Michigan 25-6

Photo courtesy:  Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports


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