Could Gophers top WR Chris Autman-Bell return this week?

Chris Autman-Bell #7 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers carries the ball against the Purdue Boilermakers during the first quarter of the game at TCF Bank Stadium on November 20, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  ((Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images))

After having to announce that Mo Ibrahim was out for the season on Monday, University of Minnesota football coach PJ Fleck had some slightly better news about another injured player on Tuesday.

At his weekly radio show, Fleck said Gophers’ top receiver Chris Autman-Bell was back at practice, but hasn’t been officially medically cleared yet to play Saturday against Miami (Ohio). Autman-Bell, who suffered a leg injury during fall camp, put on pads and went through warm-ups before last Thursday’s 45-31 loss to Ohio State. He was considered a game-time decision, but ultimately could not play.

In his absence, Dylan Wright had five catches for 57 yards and a touchdown in his Minnesota debut. Daniel Jackson added three catches for 58 yards. The hope is Autman-Bell can make his 2021 debut Saturday against the Redhawks.

"He was out there at practice today. They’ll tell me when he’s fully ready. I’ll leave that up to (trainers)," Fleck told KFAN Radio. 

Fleck also said safety Jordan Howden, who suffered a thigh injury during the game and didn’t return, is back at practice this week and should be fine to play on Saturday.


Down 10-0 and facing a 4th-and-1 from their own 29-yard line in the second quarter, P.J. Fleck gambled and went for it. If they didn’t get it, the Gophers risk going down 17-0 against one of the top teams in college football. Fleck went to his offense on the field and asked if they wanted to go for it. There was zero hesitation.

Mo Ibrahim took a run 56 yards, and Tanner Morgan finished the drive with a touchdown to Dylan Wright to cut the deficit to 10-7. The Gophers took a 14-10 lead into the half. 

"There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to get that first down," Fleck said.

Ibrahim ran for 163 yards and two touchdowns before suffering season-ending leg injury in the third quarter.


PJ Fleck has heard from the Big Ten after a big hit on Michael Brown-Stephens not only wasn’t flagged for targeting, it wasn’t even reviewed. Lathan Ransom delivered the helmet-to-helmet blow with four minutes left in regulation, and Minnesota trailing 45-31. On the field, it was ruled a catch and fumble by Brown-Stephens, which the Buckeyes recovered.

Had Ransom been called for targeting, he would’ve been ejected from the game and been forced to sit out of the first half this weekend as Ohio State faces Oregon. Brown-Stephen, who finished with two catches for 34 yards, left the game and didn’t return as the Buckeyes’ offense ran out the clock. After the play, Fleck was visibly livid with the officials for not at least reviewing a targeting call.

"Unfortunate, but we’ve got to be better from it. That’s not why we lost," Fleck said.

The Gophers (0-1) host Miami (Ohio) at 11 a.m. Saturday, seeking their first win of 2021. The Redhawks are coming off a 49-14 loss at Cincinnati to open the season.