Unconventional ending highlights U spring football game

Faced with an encroaching deadline, Gophers’ football coach PJ Fleck took an unusual route to deciding a victor in Saturday’s spring game: A kick-off. But not a kick-off in the usual sense.

The Maroon team won the game 19-16 on kicker Matthew Trickett’s second straight 52-yard field goal. To that point, Trickett and fellow kicker Dragan Kesich had matched each other, making two field goals apiece in an overtime that resembled an NHL shootout. Kesich missed his third attempt, from 52 yards, before Trickett nailed the game-winner.

Both kickers were surrounded by players from both sides, who had gathered knowing the outcome hinged on the kicking battle.

Moved indoors to the Football Performance Center field at Athletes Village due to Saturday’s weather, the game, which was televised by the Big Ten Network, was tied 10-10 at the end of regulation. Fleck said the network told him the game needed to conclude before 3 pm

“Television producing might be in my future,” Fleck joked. “They told me I had until 2:58 to get this thing done. It was about 2:10 when they told me that. I’m not so sure what we would have done if Dragan had made that kick. They probably would have cut us off. TV waits for no one.”

It was a first for Trickett.

“I’ve been in a similar situation, but nothing for taking it all home,” Trickett said. “They say kicking is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. It’s really just about training your mind and trusting your form.”

Brown Stephens has a big day

Junior wide receiver Michael Brown Stephens showed off his versatility. Brown-Stephens, who started nine games in 2021 and had 23 catches, caught four passes for 50 yards, ran four times for 26 yards and even threw a pass, which fell just out of the reach of freshman receiver Ike White.

“Yeah, I guess I’m a QB, too,” he joked.

Brown-Stephens younger brother Anthony, a prized recruit from Springfield, Ohio, had originally committed to the Gophers but backed out of that commitment in February. Anthony was at Saturday’s game to support his older brother and, many hoped, would be inspired enough to re-commit. But Michael said that Anthony came away less-than-impressed with his brother’s performance.

“He’s doing big things in high school, so he feels I should be doing the same thing,” Brown-Stephens said. “But we are competitive. I was like, ‘you want me to match you, now you go match me.’ †

A look at QBs

quarterback Tanner Morganbeginning his sixth season with the team, played just two series for the Maroon side, completing just one of four passes for 12 yards before being pulled for Cole Kramer† Kramer finished 9-for-19 for 112 yards and a touchdown on a rollout pass to redshirt sophomore running back Kendall Moore in the second quarter.

true freshman Athan Kaliakmanis quarterbacked the White team for the whole game and showed the skills that have wowed impressed observers this spring. The strong-armed Kaliakmanis, who is from Antioch, Ill., was 10-for-22 for 143 yards and a touchdown, a 27-yard strike to receiver Larry Wright to cap a nine play, 80 yard drive.

Both quarterbacks threw interceptions. defensive back Miles Fleming jumped a sideline throw by Kaliakmanis in the second quarter. linebacker Derik LeCaptain picked off Kramer on a crossing route in the third quarter.

Etc.

  • A few regulars from 2021 either played very little or were held out of the game, tight end Brevin Spann Fordcenter John Michael Schmitzdefensive backs Terrell Smith and Justin Walley† None of their three running backs who were injured in 2021 played: Mo IbrahimTrey Potts nor Bryce Williams

True freshman running back Zach Evans rushed 11 times for 51 yards for the White team and made a one-handed catch of a pass from Kaliakmanis that was thrown behind him, turning it into a 10-yard gain. Red shirt freshman running back Jordan Nubin rushed for 44 yards for the Maroon.

  • Fleck made light of the running narrative that, until Saturday, the Gophers hadn’t had an offensive lineman drafted since 2006. Daniel Faalele was selected by Baltimore in the fourth round, pick 110. Fleck breathed an exaggerated sigh of relief, smiled and said, “Finally. Finally.”
  • A number of high-profile former players wandered the sidelines — there were no seating areas at the field — including Antoine Winfield Jr.Carter CoughlinRashod Bateman and recently drafted defensive end Boye Mafe

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