Minnesota place-kicker Ryan Santoso hit an 18-yard field goal in the first overtime to give the Golden Gophers a 23-20 come-from-behind victory Saturday over Colorado State at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Defensive tackle Scott Ekpe's interception of a botched handoff on the first play of OT put Minnesota in position to even its record after back-and-forth final quarter of regulation.
The Gophers and Rams traded scores in the last minute of regulation, with both drives featuring fourth-down completions. Minnesota went 80 yards in 2:16 as Mitch Leidner hit KJ Maye for a 22-yard TD strike with 55 seconds to play. Colorado State answered with a 55-yard march, led by redshirt freshman QB Coleman Key. Fellow frosh Wyatt Bryan hit a game-tying, 37-yard field goal as time expired.
Leidner finished with a career-high 23 completions in 45 attempts for 233 yards and two touchdowns.
What the win means for Minnesota: Start with a sigh of relief. The Gophers have reached a spot in their progression under Jerry Kill that two losses to open the season -- even without impacting the Big Ten race -- would serve as a giant disappointment. Instead, Minnesota gets a win over a 10-win team from 2014 on the road. Even without its best player, injured All-America receiver Rashard Higgins, Colorado State was dangerous. And the victory gives the Gophers a good shot to enter league play next month with momentum.
What the loss means for Colorado State: Not all that much in the big picture. In the short term, it’s an opportunity lost for the Rams to take real momentum into their Week 3 showdown against rival Colorado in Denver. But CSU, after the departure of QB Garrett Grayson and coach Jim McElwain, has maintained the positive energy under Mike Bobo of a 10-win season a year ago. Their confidence was evident in overcoming a second-half deficit. With Higgins, it’s a different game. He’ll be back to help the Rams in Mountain West play, and Key, who replaced ineffective sophomore Nick Stevens, looks like a strong leader.
Player of the game: Minnesota junior Drew Wolitarsky caught nine passes for 114 yards, a career-best day that included a 38-yard touchdown on a short throw from Leidner early in the third quarter to put the Gophers on top 13-7.
Unsung hero: Jalen Myrick doesn’t receive the attention of fellow Minnesota cornerbacks Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Eric Murray, but junior from Georgia is a threat on kick returns and in the secondary. Colorado State rarely found an offensive rhythm against the Gophers. When it did Saturday in the third quarter, driving 35 yards to the Minnesota 40, Myrick intercepted Stevens on a deep throw, playing perfect coverage against Sammie Long IV to thwart the scoring threat. Later, Myrick's breakup snuffed a fourth-quarter Colorado State drive.