Inexperienced Gophers Play Pivotal Role

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By Justine Buerkle
Athletic Communications Student Assistant

The Golden Gophers won their rivalry game against Iowa for the second consecutive year, and they did it with some help from unlikely sources. A walk-on with only two previous kickoffs, a never-before-used offensive lineman, and a true freshman wide receiver all played a role in Minnesota's 22-21 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Go Gophers! Crawford-Tufts
Go Gophers!
Devin Crawford-Tufts was one of several inexperienced Gophers to have big days against Iowa.
Go Gophers!

Devin Crawford-Tufts only had two receptions in today's game, but they were big ones leading to points for Minnesota. In the second quarter, the freshman hauled in a pass from MarQueis Gray for a 61-yard gain that put the Gophers on the 12-yard line. They went on to score a touchdown and tie the game at seven that drive. Later on Crawford-Tufts made a diving catch for 39 yards, putting his yardage total at an even 100, more than his previous season total of 43 yards. Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz challenged the call, but review showed that Crawford-Tufts kept his hand under the ball as he hit the ground.

"I knew I caught the ball," Crawford-Tufts said. "I was just hoping that they saw it, too, and they made the right call."

Later that drive, Jordan Wettstein made his first career field goal to bring the Gophers within four. It was a 28-yard kick. The walk-on kicker had previously appeared in the North Dakota State game this year, kicking off twice. Today, a muscle strain sidelined Chris Hawthorne and gave Wettstein a chance to step up. He made a field goal and an extra point, and kicked off four times with an average of 61.5 yards per kick. Perhaps most importantly, he executed the onside kick that gave the Gophers the ball back and allowed them to take the lead.

 "You know he's got a great feeling," head coach Jerry Kill said. "His feet probably haven't hit the ground yet. He did a great job kicking field goals. He kicked off well. It's a tremendous story."

 Another walk-on, Caleb Bak, made his Gopher debut in today's game. The redshirt freshman helped out a Gopher offensive line that has been troubled by injury throughout the season.

"Caleb Bak, he wasn't even practicing in the spring," Kill said. "He had all the reason in the world to say, 'I'm tired of this old man,' but he's hung in there."

Some of the "big names" on the team performed well for the Gophers, too. Gray passed for 193 yards and ran for 62, with one touchdown each passing and rushing. Duane Bennett rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown. But Minnesota would not have been able to keep Floyd of Rosedale without the contributions of Crawford-Tufts, Wettstein, and Bak.

"Some of those kids that were put into those duties, those things that happened to them today, they'll take on for the rest of their life," Kill said. "It'll make them better men, because they stayed with something and they had success. That's what this game, ultimately, is all about."

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