Andy Greder / St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS — Maryland's switch from head coach D.J. Durkin to interim coach Matt Canada has not thrown off the Gophers' preparations for their Big Ten opener Saturday, Sept. 22, in College Park, Md. If anything, it's created a deeper layer of familiarity. While Canada might have been hired as Maryland's first-year offensive coordinator in January — meaning he wasn't involved in the Terrapins' 31-24 win over Minnesota last September — he and Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck have know each other for nearly 20 years.
MINNEAPOLIS — It appears Zack Annexstad's left ankle injury won't keep him from playing in the Gophers' Big Ten opener against Maryland at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, in College Park. "It seems like he's going to be OK, according to what our people say, so (I'm) hopeful," head coach P.J. Fleck said Monday.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Gophers head into Big Ten play next week with a perfect 3-0 record after a thorough 26-3 win over winless Miami (Ohio) on a steamy Saturday, Sept. 15, at TCF Bank Stadium. There, however, was a dichotomy in their postgame reaction. On one hand, victory will be savored as five of the other six teams in the Big Ten West have suffered defeats already this season, including front-runner and sixth-ranked Wisconsin falling to Brigham Young on Saturday.
MINNEAPOLIS — With a team-high bench press max of 430 pounds, Gary Moore is one of strongest Gophers football players. He's also one of the most open about his vulnerabilities. Moore grew up in a poor section of Mobile, Ala., where "there was a lot of crime going in the area, drug dealers," he said. But his father was the neighborhood mechanic and worked to steer his namesake down the right path. "I think that was the best part: My dad was always there, up until high school," Moore said.
MINNEAPOLIS — The first name of the Gophers' true freshman starting cornerback is spelled with one "R," not two. Notre Dame learned that the hard way. Terell Smith committed to Minnesota's 2018 recruiting class when he was a junior in Snellville, Ga., in March 2017. As a senior last fall, he received a lot of attention from other schools, including the Fighting Irish.
MINNEAPOLIS — Blake Cashman never considered quitting the Gophers football team. Not as the freshman walk-on who struggled in his transition to college in 2015. Not as a sophomore who failed at first to grasp added linebacker responsibilities in 2016. Not as a rising junior who played in all 26 games those two seasons without a scholarship, just as the team made a coaching change for the 2017 season.
ST. PAUL — Collin Martin knew he was gay in elementary school. But through high school in Bethesda, Md., and into his collegiate soccer career at Wake Forest, he thought: "I would potentially still have to marry a girl, which was really tough." When Martin signed his first professional contract with D.C. United in 2013, he told himself: "I need to really explore this." He then began to share his sexuality with friends and siblings, followed by a few D.C. United teammates and his parents two years ago.
MINNEAPOLIS — Gophers star running back Rodney Smith will miss the rest of the 2018 season with a left knee injury he suffered in the 21-14 win Saturday over Fresno State, the school confirmed Monday, Sept. 10. "I am devastated for Rodney, but I know he will keep his oar in the water and continue to move forward and attack his rehabilitation process," Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck said in a statement. "He is a leader on this team and I look forward to him working with our young players as we continue to grow this season.
MINNEAPOLIS—It's quickly becoming "typical" Zack Annexstad. In the season opener Thursday, Aug. 30, the Minnesota Gophers' freshman quarterback put his arm around head coach P.J. Fleck's shoulder after an early fumble and told Fleck, "We're gonna be all right." On Saturday, Sept. 8, after Annexstad helped lead a go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter, Fresno State was responding with its own drive down the field and Annexstad again reassured his coach.
MINNEAPOLIS—The Minnesota Gophers lost their best offensive player in the first quarter, but their best defensive player saved the game in the fourth. Minnesota survived standout senior running Rodney Smith's leg injury early, and safety Antoine Winfield Jr.'s interception in the end zone late helped Minnesota edge Fresno State 21-14 Saturday night, Sept. 8, at TCF Bank Stadium. Without Smith, one of the Gophers' all-time best running backs, Minnesota's youthful offense struggled to generate much offense outside of Seth Green in the Wildcat formation.