Gophers throttle Colorado 49-7 to improve to 3-0

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The Gophers football team completed the preseason — ahem, nonconference — portion of its schedule on Saturday.

Minnesota cruised to a 49-7 win over Colorado at Huntington Bank Stadium to move to 3-0 going into the Big Ten slate. With a 38-0 win over New Mexico State and a 62-10 victory over Western Illinois, Minnesota outscored those three by a combined 149-17.

Those 149 points register as the fourth-highest total through a season’s opening three games in program history, and two of those were in the early 1900s, when the U was demolishing a few poor Minnesota high schools. The third was in 1916 versus three colleges in the Dakotas.

Colorado was, in theory, supposed to be a stiffer test given their status as a member of the Pac-12 Conference. It didn’t matter; Saturday’s game was about as one-sided as possible.

After calling the first two wins “workmanlike,” Fleck described Saturday as “surgical.”

The biggest downside Saturday was clear: Top receiver Chris Autman-Bell left the game in the second quarter with an apparent right leg injury. He looked distraught as he needed help getting into the locker room at the half and didn’t return. Head coach P.J. Fleck did not have a definitive update on Autman-Bell postgame.

Former Gophers and current Buffaloes offensive coordinator Mike Sanford Jr., who was not being retained last November, couldn’t get anything going against his former employer. U defensive coordinator Joe Rossi did not let him get comfortable with an aggressive play call out of the gate.

Rossi dialed up a cornerback blitz on the first play. Terell Smith came off the edge for a blindside strip sack of J.T. Shrout, and it was recovered by Jalen Logan-Redding.

“We knew we were going to come out and attack; that was part of our game-plan,” linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin said. “We talked all week about how we needed to get more takeaways. For the first two things to go our way that quickly just shows how prepared we were for this football game.”

After scoring on the opening drive, Minnesota’s offense took the turnover and quickly added another touchdown for a 14-0 lead. It was the start of a long day for the Buffaloes.

Sanford’s offense, which was 125th in the country in total yards through two games, didn’t break the shutout Saturday until Gophers backups were in the game in the fourth quarter.

Colorado’s rushing defense was even worse. They entered Week 3 at 131st in the nation, dead last, with 355 rushing yards allowed per game. They gave up 334 on Saturday.

Mo Ibrahim had 202 yards on 23 carries for a nearly nine yard average and three touchdowns, which were all scored in the first half. With seven TDs in the first three games, he moves into a tie with Darrell Thompson career record of 40 rushing scores.

“He’s a big part of Minnesota history,” Ibrahim said of Thompson, a star in the late 1980s. “Just to be tied up with him is just amazing. It says a lot about my team, getting me in the end zone.”

Ibrahim didn’t know postgame exactly how many times had scored, turning to quarterback Morgan at the podium. “What did I have two?”

Given how lopsided the entire game was Saturday, Ibrahaim could be forgiven for losing count.

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