Minneapolis — The Big Ten built its reputation over the years as a conference that favored the ground game on offense, but Minnesota took it to the extreme on Saturday.
David Cobb ran for 207 yards and two touchdowns as the Gophers passed for just seven yards in a 24-7 win over San Jose State.
Minnesota's defense forced five turnovers to support an offense that played without starting quarterback Mitch Leidner, sidelined with a sprained knee and turf toe. The Gophers' offense was one-dimensional behind redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Streveler, who didn't complete a pass until midway through the fourth quarter and finished 1-for-7 for 7 yards. But he did rush for 161 yards and a touchdown in his first career start.
"I got a call from Barry Switzer about five minutes ago and he's proud, being from the Midwest and running the Wishbone offense," joked Minnesota coach Jerry Kill after the game.
In truth, the Gophers offense wasn't so much conservative as it was consistent. They ran it 58 times for 380 net rushing yards, and Cobb alone rushed 22 times for 149 yards in the first half. With that kind of early success, they saw no need to change their approach.
"All we did today was run option football — the guy closes, you pull it; the guy steps up the field, you give it," Kill said. "With the coverage we were getting, nobody on the quarterback, you take what they give you.
"Last week (in a 30-7 loss at TCU) we threw it 29 times and we didn't do as well as we needed to do because of the pressure. You get your tail end beat and ."
The game was suspended early in the fourth and delayed just over an hour due to thunderstorms. When play resumed, Minnesota (3-1) stopped a Spartans drive, then marched 60 yards, with Cobb bursting through the line for a 16-yard touchdown run to put the game away.
"We were pretty fiery in the locker room coming out for the 'third half,'" San Jose State coach Ron Carragher said. "It just didn't transpire over from an offensive standpoint. The defense continued to play pretty good but the rest of the team didn't."
Senior Blake Jurich completed 14 of 29 passes for 161 yards for San Jose State (1-2), but he threw two interceptions and fumbled twice in his third career start.
Two momentum swings in the final 30 seconds of the first half resulted in a late Minnesota touchdown and a 17-7 halftime lead for the Gophers. Cobb fumbled at the Spartans 1 and San Jose State recovered in the end zone with 29 seconds left. But two plays later, San Jose State quarterback Blake Jurich threw his second interception of the half, as Minnesota cornerback Eric Murray made a leaping pick on the sideline at the Spartans 22.
Given a second chance with 25 seconds left, Cobb rushed three times to get the ball down to the 1. With 4 seconds remaining and no timeouts left, the Gophers decided to run a play on third-and-goal from the 1. Streveler bounced over left tackle and into the end zone to put Minnesota up by 10 as the half expired.
Jurich also handed Minnesota its first three points when he threw his first pass of the game straight to Gophers safety Damarius Travis.
"Just mental mistakes I made," said Jurich, who sat behind NFL draftee David Fales the last two seasons. "A couple bad decisions. I've got to just move on from it."
The Gophers begin Big Ten play next Saturday at Michigan, and if Leidner can't go, Streveler said he'll be ready to step in again, regardless of whether the game plan calls for him to pass 30 times or run 30 times.
"It just feels good to just go out there and help the team get a W, to be honest," Streveler said. "I don't care whether I do it running or passing. It doesn't matter how you get it done as long as you get it done."