Chris Autman-Bell jogged onto the Huntington Bank Stadium turf Saturday morning in maroon shorts and a gold T-shirt, just like his Gophers teammates preparing for the game against Miami (Ohio). Out since Aug. 12 because of a lower leg injury, Autman-Bell looked much more active than he did on Sept. 2, when he missed the season opener against Ohio State.
He also went through the full-pad warmups, but when the Gophers came out to start the game, Autman-Bell again was on the sideline in a jersey and sweatpants, missing his second game in a row as the Gophers beat the RedHawks 31-26.
"We've just got to get healthy,'' said Gophers coach P.J. Fleck, whose team plays Colorado on Saturday in Boulder. "I'm not in charge of bringing them back. Hopefully, day-to-day becomes now he's back, where we can get 'Crab' back.''
Autman-Bell's absence saw the further development of wide receivers Dylan Wright and Daniel Jackson. Wright, a sophomore transfer from Texas A&M, caught three passes for 73 yards, including a 25-yard TD grab, as the Gophers took a 21-3 halftime lead. He also drew 30 yards in pass interference penalties against Miami. Jackson, a sophomore, caught four passes for 30 yards, including a 6-yard TD reception.
"I thought Daniel played really well today,'' Fleck said. "… I liked the receiving corps. We have to continue to build ourselves mentally and build that mental toughness.''
Wright left the game in the third quarter after taking a hit on a slant pattern. He went to the medical tent, returned to the sideline but did not re-enter the game as the Gophers focused on the run in the fourth quarter.
"You have to be able to fail to grow. What I saw from Dylan was big plays, then he failed,'' Fleck said. "The response has to be better.'' Fleck did not have an update on Wright's condition.
On defense, safety Jordan Howden (thigh) did not play. Fleck had expressed optimism leading up to the game that Howden would play.
Costly penalty for Miami
Miami cut Minnesota's lead to 21-19 early in the fourth quarter on Brett Gabbert's 23-yard TD pass to Jack Sorenson. The RedHawks were planning to try a two-point conversion that could have tied the score, but they were called for their second sideline infraction following the touchdown. That moved the try back 5 yards to the 8, and coach Chuck Martin opted to kick the extra point, which made it 21-20.
Nonconference win streak reaches 20
With the win over the RedHawks, the Gophers extended their winning streak against nonconference opponents to 20 games, the longest active streak in FBS. Their last loss in a nonconference game came Sept. 3, 2015, with a 23-17 setback to No. 2 TCU in the season opener in Minneapolis.
Since the TCU loss, the Gophers have six wins over Mid-American Conference opponents, four over Mountain West foes, three over Pac-12 teams, two over FCS-level squads and one each against independents and teams from the ACC, SEC, Conference USA and Sun Belt. Four of the wins came in bowl games.
* The Gophers' streak of three consecutive sellouts – home games against Penn State and Wisconsin in 2019 and this year's opener against Ohio State – ended with the announced attendance of 43,372 against Miami.
* Gophers running back Mohamed Ibrahim was on the sideline in his jersey, with his surgically repaired left leg in a green cast and using a knee scooter. He represented the Gophers as captain during the pregame coin toss.
* Crawford Jordan, a four-year starting safety for the Gophers and the team's captain in 1997, gave the speech during Saturday's morning's captains' breakfast.