Gophers run over Rutgers 31-0 to end three-game losing streak

John Autey/Pioneer Press/TNS

The Rutgers football team resembled a minty mouth wash Saturday to help rid the Gophers of the sour taste of their three-game losing streak.

Minnesota’s offense started the game with two long touchdown drives to create all the separation the U defense needed against an already-limping Scarlet Knights offense in a 31-0 victory at Huntington Bank Stadium.

Minnesota (5-3, 2-3 Big Ten) ended its worst losing streak since dropping four in a row in 2018, with a one-sided win over Rutgers (4-4, 1-4).

“I’m really proud of their resolve because that is really hard to do,” head coach P.J. Fleck said. “There are a lot of teams that can jus spiral after that.”

For long stretches Saturday, a better palate-cleansing metaphor might have been how both offenses resembled eating ginger before diving into sushi without wasabi or even soy sauce. Both were dry, and neither offered much spice.

After a mostly sleepy third quarter with five combined and consecutive punts, Gophers safety Tyler Nubin’s interception jolted the game and gave Minnesota great field position at Rutgers’ 33-yard line.

Two plays later, Mo Ibrahim found a crease and outraced Rutgers tacklers to the corner from 28 yards out. It was only the second explosive play (20 or more yards) among the then-95 offensive snaps run by both teams to that point Saturday.

Minnesota went on to score 17 points in the fourth quarter to make it a blowout. The Gophers mostly kept it on the ground with 254 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

The U’s defense bounced back from allowing at least 470 yards in losses to two ranked teams, Illinois and Penn State, in the last two weeks.

It helped that Rutgers’ offense was ranked 113th in nation in total yards, and Minnesota was able to keep them down with the U’s first Big Ten shoutout since beating Illinois 45-0 at the Metrodome in 2004.

The Gophers’ opening two offensive drives ended in touchdowns — the first spanned a record-tying 99 yards over 19 plays and the second went only 13 plays and 86 yards. Both drives at up a combined 17 minutes of game time.

Both ended with Ibrahim touchdown runs. The first set a new program record for total touchdowns (44), breaking a tie with Darrell Thompson for most in U history.

Ibrahim, who briefly left the game with an ankle injury, finished with 36 carries for 159 yards and three touchdowns. Bryce Williams added two touchdowns and Trey Potts contributed a 40-yard run.

The Gophers’ 99-yard drive was the longest in distance covered since Indiana in 2018 and the longest in total plays since the U marched 19 plays against Wisconsin in 2005.

Rutgers had a surprise starter at quarterback with Gavin Wimsatt replacing Noah Vedral, a Nebraska transfer who started the last three games. Wimsatt left the game in the third quarter when he was hit by Michael Dixon and bounced off the turf. Wimsatt and Vedral combined for 86 passing yards

Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan returned after a one-game absence for a concussion. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 122 yards.

Minnesota will look to turn one victory into a winning run with a road game at Nebraska next Saturday.

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