What we learned from the Gophers Spring Game

May 1, 2021:

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Game Recap:

Pregame: Before today’s Spring Game even kicked off the most notable inactive was Texas A&M transfer, WR Dylan Wright. He was likely a player that could’ve used the game as a springboard into a top spot on the depth chart, but he will have to wait until fall camp now to make an impression. Some other unexpected omissions were RB Mo Ibrahim (Ramadan), C John Michael Schmitz, LB Josh Aune, QB Jacob Clark and DL Boye Mafe, Esezi Otomewo and Val Martin.

First-quarter: The Maroon team lead by Tanner Morgan struck first, but it was a Mike Brown-Stephens TD pass to Morgan. The Gophers’ QB1 looked very calm on his first drive. Zack Annexstad would lead the Gold team back down the field for a field goal. He looked terrific running the zone run scheme with a handful of great runs early. The tight ends were busy with big plays from both Ko Kieft and Austin Henderson.

Second-quarter: Morgan and the Maroon team’s following drive was highlighted by a beautiful 40-yard deep ball to Chris Autman-Bell. The drive would stall and lead to another field goal, but the attempt would be no good from Dragan Kesich. The Gold team’s next drive would end abruptly after Daniel Jackson coughed up a fumble. Morgan answer and hit Autman-Bell for another deep ball, this time for a TD for about 30 yards. Annexstad would answer with a deep-ball of his own to freshman WR Brady Boyd for about 40 yards. Daniel Faalele would take a shotgun snap behind center and hit Ko Kieft for a TD.

Third-quarter: Both offenses struggled out of the locker room with alternating punts. After one drive in the second half, Cole Kramer would replace Morgan, as the Maroon team’s QB. Annexstad was able to find the first big play of the half on a deep ball to Daniel Jackson, setting up another big play from freshman WR Brady Boyd. Offensive lineman Sam Schlueter would cap off the drive after taking a handoff for six; concluding the quarter and bring a tied ball game into the final quarter.

Fourth Quarter: Morgan would come back in for the Maroon team’s first drive of the fourth. Freshman DB Justin Walley would break up another attempt at a deep ball from Morgan to Autman-Bell. Derik LeCaptain would pick off Zack Annexstad on the following drive for the first interception from either team. Cam Wiley would take advantage, capping off the Maroon team drive with a TD giving it a 24-17 lead with 3:11 to go. Annexstad would do his best to run the two-minute offense, hitting Clay Geary with a deep ball over the middle, giving the Gold team a chance to tie it up. Terell Smith would cap off the Maroon team’s goal-line stand to seal the victory.

What I learned:

I think the biggest thing I learned from Saturday’s Spring Game is that Tanner Morgan and Chris Autman-Bell have serious chemistry already which might be the best thing Gophers fans could’ve seen today. Freshman DB Justin Walley continues to impress me and the staff too, as it seems like he could have a serious role early in his Minnesota career. Freshman WR Brady Boyd was another player who made a big impression, making a case to have a role in his first season as a Gopher. I think the WR room is shaping to be Autman-Bell, Daniel Jackson and then Mike Brown-Stephens in that order.

Some other defensive names who made an impact were Danny Striggow, Jah Joyner and Terell Smith. Overall I would say there is still a lot to learn about this team with so many big contributors sitting out today. I think Morgan played better than Annexstad, but Annexstad proved that there is not a substantial drop-off between both players.

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