MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota was looking for a quick start on Saturday against Indiana State. Mitch Leidner and Drew Wolitarsky made sure that’s exactly what the Gophers got.
Leidner completed 20 of 30 passes for 295 yards and four touchdowns on Saturday as Minnesota rolled to 592 total yards in a 58-28 win over Indiana State.
After struggling through the first quarter in a win against Oregon State, the Gophers (2-0) wanted to get points on the board against their FCS opponent. On Minnesota’s opening drive, Leidner and Wolitarsky connected on passes of 21 and 14 yards on third-and-long plays. Then Leidner dropped a 20-yard rainbow into Wolitarsky’s hands in the corner of the end zone for Minnesota’s first score.
Wolitarsky caught eight passes for a career-high 125 yards and two touchdowns. The senior wide receiver has led Minnesota in receptions in both of its games this year, exploiting the connection he has with Leidner, Minnesota’s senior quarterback.
“The way we practice, the way we stay after together throw routes — most of that stuff is done in practice, so when a game comes it just becomes second nature,” Wolitarsky said.
Leidner made sure Minnesota’s hot start continued all day. The Gophers scored five touchdowns and a field goal in seven first-half possessions and put points on the board in nine of the 10 drives Leidner led.
“I think it’s pretty big for us offensively because we had a bad taste in our mouth after last week,” said Leidner, who only played three quarters on Saturday.
Overall, Minnesota’s offensive output was the sixth-most yards in school history and its most points in a game since 2006.
“Early in the game they did things right and we didn’t do things well enough,” Indiana State coach Mike Sanford said. ‘We got ourselves behind and the things kept snowpiling.”
Indiana State quarterback Isaac Harker threw three touchdown passes, all to wide receiver Robert Tonyan, and caught a 10-yard touchdown off a reverse option pass by wide receiver Bob Pugh.
The Sycamores (1-1) are 0-16 all-time against teams in the current Big Ten.
MINNESOTA: Junior running back Kobe McCrary made quite an impression in his first extended duty with the Gophers. McCrary, who led the nation with 22 touchdowns last year at Butler Community College, ran 17 times for 176 yards and two touchdowns. He slashed through the Sycamores defense for a 6-yard touchdown late in the second quarter. In the fourth quarter he added a 43-yard run and a 50-yard touchdown run on the same drive. McCrary is expected to challenge sophomores Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks for snaps in the backfield. “It’s a good problem to have, the people we’ll have at tailback,” Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys said.
INDIANA STATE: The Sycamores’ biggest gain of the day came in the first quarter when Clayton Smith caught a pass that was intended for Pugh. Minnesota defensive back Adekunle Ayinde deflected the pass, but Smith plucked it out of the air in stride and took it 58 yards to the Minnesota 20. The Sycamores ended that drive with a touchdown to tie the score 7-7.
MINNESOTA: Leidner tied his career high with four touchdown passes. . The Gophers punted only once on the day and didn’t commit a turnover. . Minnesota’s 31 first downs were its most in a game in 12 years. . The Gophers are 9-for-9 on red zone trips this season, and they’ve scored a touchdown on each of those possessions. . Sophomore kicker Emmit Carpenter was 3-for-3 on field goals. He converted from 42, 44, and 45 yards out. . The Gophers played without four players who were suspended for breaking team rules. Freshman defensive backs Dior Johnson and Ray Buford, freshman defensive lineman Tamarion Johnson, and sophomore defensive back KiAnte Hardin were suspended indefinitely. Claeys said their status would be addressed “day by day.”
INDIANA STATE: Tonyan finished with eight catches for 90 yards to go with his three touchdowns. . Sophomore linebacker Katrell Moss led the Sycamores with nine tackles.
THE LAST WORD
“You always say, to have a great season your seniors have to play well. . But I’m greedy. We’re not where we need to be and we need to get back to work.” – Claeys on his reaction to Leidner and Wolitarsky’s performance
INDIANA STATE: The Sycamores travel to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on Saturday to take on Southeast Missouri State in a nonconference game.
MINNESOTA: The Gophers have a week off, then host Colorado State on Sept. 24. Last year the Gophers beat the Rams 23-20 in overtime at Fort Collins.
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