MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - PJ Fleck wants to give opposing defenses something to think about when the 2019 fall season starts with the Minnesota rushing attack.
The Gophers might have found their own “William the Refrigerator Perry” in Saturday’s Spring Game. His name is Daniel Faalele, and in most situations he’s a 6 foot, 9 inch, 400-pound offensive lineman.
He took a handoff during the second quarter in the Spring Game and barreled into the end zone from six yards out, carrying multiple defenders with him. It gave the Maroon team a 14-0 lead, and his teammates exploded from the sidelines to celebrate his first career touchdown with him.
That’s 400 pounds running downhill. It will give Fleck something to think about when he’s in a 4th-and-short or goal line situation in the fall. His primary option in that situation last season was wildcat quarterback Seth Green.
“He got the ball at the 6-yard line, got hit at the 6-yard line and ‘William the Refrigerator Perry’ went into the end zone. It was unbelievable,” Fleck said of Faalele. “I thought he was going to get tackled and he just kept moving his feet, and 400 pounds later he’s in the end zone.”
Senior defensive end Carter Coughlin had three tackles and a sack for the Gold defense in Saturday’s Spring Game. He was on the sideline during Faalele’s run, and was more than happy to stay there.
“I’m glad I wasn’t in. I mean shoot, he’s like three grown men combined so it would take at least three (to bring him down),” Coughlin said.
Gophres senior wide receiver Tyler Johnson was on the Gold team for the Spring Game and finished with three catches for 77 yards. He felt helpless for his defense on the field, tyring to tackle the mammoth lineman.
“When the defense got back to the sideline I was like ‘Hey, there’s nothing you could do right there.’ Told them just get back in there and keep playing football,” Johnson said.
Sure it was all in good fun and a nice wrinkle to add to the Spring Game, but it gives Fleck an option he should seriously consider in the fall.
Mohamed Ibrahim got the majority of the carries last fall when the Gophers lost Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks both to season-ending injuries. Ibrahim finished Saturday’s Spring Game with 10 carries for 84 yards and a touchdown.
He flashed a wide smile when asked about Faalele’s touchdown run.
“I don’t think nobody can bring him down 1-on-1,” Ibrahim said.
Fleck wasn’t kidding when he said before the Spring Game there would be some interesting options thrown in at running back. Demetrius Douglas got a carry on a reverse, and Preston Jelen got 16 carries for 78 yards and a score for the Maroon team.
The Gold team was led by Jon Santaga’s five carries for 36 yards.
What we do know is Smith and Brooks will get the bulk of the carries this upcoming season, assuming they both are fully healthy in the fall. Green spent part of the spring with his right foot in a walking boot, but will continue as the wildcat quarterback.
Don’t dismiss the possibility of big No. 78 in the backfield when the Gophers need a couple yards. It’s simple physics that it would be extremely difficult to bring down a 400-pound man without multiple defenders.
And football fans love big guy touchdowns. Imagine Gophers football fans seeing Faalele rumble into the end zone. You won’t have to look very far to find a fan favorite. Now Fleck’s task is to find an Australian nickname for him.