MINNEAPOLIS - University of Minnesota football coach PJ Fleck has a head set during games that gives him a live feed to his offensive, defensive and special teams coaches. He said Monday with a smirk that he should have a live intercom for fans.
That’s after Gophers’ fans booed the team at the end of the first half in Minnesota’s 34-16 win over Maryland. The Gophers had the ball at the Maryland 26-yard line with one timeout and 1:09 left. Ky Thomas ran for two yards, then five yards for a first down and two yards before Fleck called a timeout.
Thomas was then stopped for a loss with 28 seconds left, and Fleck opted to drain the remaining clock for a field goal instead of taking a shot to get closer. Matthew Trickett’s kick from 38 yards out was blocked, and had the Terrapins recovered it cleanly, it would’ve gone for a Maryland touchdown and 17-17 tie at the half.
Fleck said after the win he would’ve been more aggressive in the situation had Minnesota not started the second half with the ball. It ended up not mattering, with the Gophers scoring 14 points in the third quarter and pulling away for their third straight win.
"We have passionate fans, but I don’t have a chance to explain it to everybody over the intercom, exactly what I’m thinking in the final 40 seconds of the half. They just have to trust me that we’re going to do the right thing to go score points," Fleck said. "I just didn’t to give the guy, No. 3 (Taulia Tagovailoa), the ball back. Like I said, I wish I could get on the intercom, have a live feed. I have offense, defense, special teams on my head set. There should be one for the crowd," Fleck joked.
One reporter told Fleck that could probably be arranged if he really wanted it.
"Oh yeah, I’m sure they’d all listen too. ‘Is that what he’s doing? Oh OK, yay! No more boos, yay, I got it. Coach, thanks for really clearing that up for me,’" Fleck joked.
GOPHERS TRAVEL TO NORTHWESTERN ON 3-GAME WIN STREAK
The stakes are raised this week as Minnesota’s win over Maryland put the team in a tie with Iowa atop the Big Ten West at 3-1. Wisconsin hosts Iowa this Saturday. The Gophers play at Iowa on Nov. 13, and host Wisconsin to end the season.
Minnesota is 5-2 and can earn bowl eligibility with a win at Northwestern. The path is there for the Gophers to be 7-2 heading to Iowa in a game that could go a long way in determining the division winner. But as Fleck always says, it’s the Northwestern championship season. That’s especially critical after the opponent in two weeks, Illinois, went to Penn State and pulled off an upset in nine overtimes.
Talking about facing rivals with division implications is fun entertainment, but it doesn’t mean anything if the Gophers don’t take care of Northwestern and Illinois first.
"They have to do everything they can to make sure that the external is very, very quiet and they focus on the internal. What is the focus of the week? Because every week we give them, this is what we have to do to win this football game," Fleck said.
KY THOMAS THE LATEST GOPHERS RB TO STEP UP
The Gophers are without Mo Ibrahim and Trey Potts for the rest of the season, which means Fleck has had to use his full depth chart in the running back room seven games into the season. Bryce Williams had 17 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown against Nebraska.
Saturday, it was a pair of freshmen in Ky Thomas and Mar’Keise Irving. Thomas had 21 carries for 143 yards and a touchdown. Irving had 15 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown on an impressive stiff arm. It was the first time since an October 2019 win over Illinois that Minnesota had two rushers go for more than 100 yards in the same game. The Gophers ran for 326 yards against Maryland.
"They all have their own skill sets. They all possess something different than each other, but the main thing they all have to have is the ball. They all do really unique things," Fleck said.
GOPHERS VS ILLINOIS KICKOFF TIME ANNOUNCED
The Gophers will host Illinois on Saturday, Nov. 6 in the penultimate home game. Big Ten officials announced it will be an 11 a.m. kickoff. It will be the fifth 11 a.m. kickoff this season for Minnesota.