LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- For the first time this season, Minnesota took its show on the road, and the Golden Gophers turned in another solid all-around performance during a 44-21 win at New Mexico State.
For the second week in a row, head coach Jerry Kill's Gophers scored more than 40 points, with touchdowns coming from the offense, defense and special teams. It's the first time since November 2005 that Minnesota has scored 40 or more points in back-to-back victories, and the team is off to a 2-0 start for the second straight season.
Sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson directed a Minnesota offense that racked up 469 total net yards, and the Gophers used their size advantage to rush for 342 yards. Sophomore Rodrick Williams Jr. led Minnesota with 148 yards and a TD, and Nelson added 122 yards and his third rushing TD of the season on a night where the Gophers were without the services of injured junior Donnell Kirkwood.
Minnesota ran 23 fewer plays than the Aggies, but gained 112 more offensive yards, while averaging 8.1 yards per play in the win. The Gophers' passing game netted just 127 yards, but Minnesota was dominant in the running game with an average rushing play of 8.0 yards.
During last week's 51-23 home victory against UNLV, junior defensive back Marcus Jones opened the second half by returning the Rebels' kickoff 98 yards for a TD. This week, Jones once again made his mark on special teams with a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown with 1:22 left in the first half. It was Minnesota's first punt return for a TD since the 2000 season, and it helped send the Gophers into the locker room with a 27-7 lead at the half.
Defensively, the Gophers held the Aggies to just 4.4 yards per play (2.5 per rush), while forcing a fumble that was returned 50 yards for a touchdown by senior linebacker Aaron Hill late in the fourth quarter.
Minnesota (2-0) now returns home for the next three weeks, beginning with next Saturday's matchup with FCS member Western Illinois. The Gophers will attempt to start a season 3-0 for the second year in a row, something that hasn't happened since they opened 5-0 during 2004 and 4-0 during 2005.
Another all-around performance like they've turned in during the first two weeks will go a long ways toward achieving that distinction.