MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) – University of Minnesota football coach PJ Fleck announced Sunday night that defensive coordinator Robb Smith has been relieved of his duties.

Fleck named defensive line coach Joe Rossi the team’s interim defensive coordinator.

“These decisions are always difficult, especially when they involve a close friend and colleague,” said Fleck. “I want to thank Robb, Amy and their family for all the time and energy they spent helping our program grow. Robb is an elite man and will always be a dear friend of mine.”

The Gophers have had a rough season defensively since the Big Ten season started. They’ve allowed more than 40 points in four of Minnesota’s six Big Ten games. The Gophers also gave up a 31-9 lead to Indiana before beating the Hoosiers 38-31.

Minnesota gave up 55 points to Illinois on Saturday. The Gophers also allowed 53 points against Nebraska, who also piled up more than 650 yards of offense in the first win of their season.

Fleck hired Smith last year upon taking over the program at Minnesota, having spent two seasons with Smith as assistants together at Rutgers. The 43-year-old Smith was the defensive coordinator at Arkansas for four seasons before joining the Gophers.

Star safety Antoine Winfield Jr. injured his foot in the conference opener at Maryland, and the defense hasn’t recovered. The Gophers gave up 430 rushing yards on Saturday in a 55-31 loss at Illinois. Four touchdowns by the Illini covered 67 yards or more.

The Gophers host Purdue this Saturday. The Boilermakers scored 49 points in a win over Ohio State two weeks ago.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


  1. tremoluxman says:

    Where were the Gophers’ defensive players, sitting in the bleachers watching?