6 takeaways from the Gophers spring football game

The maroon team took down the gold team 19-16 at the annual spring game

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Gophers football players on the maroon team lift Goldy's Cup after they beat the gold team 19-16 in the annual spring game at Athletes Villlage on Saturday in Minneapolis.
Brad Rempel, University of Minnesota
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The Gophers football program’s annual spring game Saturday gave the appearance that it was a made-for-TV drama.

With time running out on its two-hour window on Big Ten Network, Minnesota’s gold and maroon teams were deadlocked,13-13, after one overtime. So head coach/field TV producer P.J. Fleck improvised with “sudden-death kicks.”

Matthew Trickett and Dragan Kesich each made 52-yard field goals in Round 1. Then Kesich missed his second from 52 wide left, and Trickett made it from the same spot for the game-winner.

“(BTN) said you got until 2:58 to get this thing done; it was about 2:10 when they told me that,” Fleck said. “I’m not so sure what I would have done if Dragan would made that last one, plus Trickett. TV doesn’t wait for anybody. They would have cut us. It just worked out that way.”

If anything, it showed the Gophers have two kickers capable of making long-range kicks under pressure.


Here are five more takeaways from the spring game:


Receiver Mike Brown-Stephens said he wanted to put a show on for his younger brother, four-star recruit Anthony Brown, who de-committed from Minnesota in February but was back on campus for the spring game.

Brown said the U’s offense scheme played into his decision to back off his pledge. The return of coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca showed with more run-pass balance Saturday than ex-OC Mike Sanford Jr. had last season.

Brown-Stephens had plenty of opportunities with four receptions on 10 targers for 50 yards, four carries for 26 yards and an incomplete pass attempt. He won the game’s MVP honors, but ran into a tough crowd with his younger brother.

“He wasn’t impressed,” Brown-Stephens said with a smile. “He came over to the wide receiver hurdle after and said, ‘Can I get some pushups or something?’ ”


Fleck said “this is probably the fastest team that we’ve had, one of the most athletic teams, by the (testing) numbers.”

The Gophers look to contend for the Big Ten West title this fall. “For us to be as good as we want to be, we have to be really tough. Tough is not about … smashing in pads. It’s ability to overcome adversity.”


With Boye Made and Esezi Otomewo taken in the NFL draft this weekend, the U’s current defensive end Austin Booker showed the cupboard isn’t bare. The second-year player from Greenwood, Ind., had game-highs in sacks (2) and tackles (7).


“He is definitely going to do some big things,” said linebacker Derik LeCaptain.


Starting quarterback Tanner Morgan played one series, going 1 for 4 for 12 yards, before giving way to backups Athan Kaliakmanis and Cole Kramer.

Kaliakmanis looked sharp early with a 27-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive. The second-year QB finished 10 for 22 with a TD, one interception and four sacks. Going into his fourth year, Kramer went 9 for 19 for 112 yards, one TD, one INT and three sacks.

Kaliakmanis appears to be the No. 2 QB behind Morgan, with Kramer remaining the U’s Wildcat option.


The NCAA deadline for players to enter the transfer portal and maintain eligibility for the 2022 season arrives Sunday.

“Hopefully we keep everybody here,” Fleck said.


Casey O’Brien, the former Gophers placeholder from St. Paul, had surgery Friday to treat the return of cancer, Fleck said. “He’s doing great, has a positive attitude and a big smile on his face. It’s unbelievable.” … The Gophers rested a lot of key players, including safety/nickel Michael “Flip” Dixon, who Fleck said had one of the best springs of any player. … 6-foot-4 walk-on receiver Larry Wright from Eastview High School had three receptions for 55 yards and a TD. Fleck noted Wright’s improvement and said he has a chance to play this fall. Walk-on RB K.J. Moore of East Ridge High School scored the game’s other touchdown. … Linebacker Derik LeCaptain and defensive back Miles Fleming were responsible for the interceptions. … Incoming defensive lineman Trey Bixby of Eden Prairie has been working out at Exos athletic training facility in Phoenix and has gleaned knowledge from Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen, a 2019 first-round pick. …Fleck was at Target Center for the Timberwolves’ NBA playoff loss on Friday night. “The atmosphere, how electric that was,” Fleck said. “That young team, and what they are going to become.”

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