MINNEAPOLIS (AP)Mo Ibrahim ran for three touchdowns, Tanner Morgan threw for three more and the Minnesota Gophers’ defense stifled the Colorado Buffaloes in a 49-7 win on Saturday.
The Gophers’ offense, ranked first in FBS in total yards and seventh in points scored entering the week, racked up 500 yards, including 349 yards in a 35-point first half. The starters scored touchdowns on six of their eight drives. The Buffaloes’ offense managed 227 yards, 136 of which came in the fourth quarter with the Minnesota’s starters out.
”A surgical performance,” Gophers’ head coach P.J. Fleck said. ”Offense, defense, special teams… they just go out there and execute the game plan.”
It’s the first time in school history Colorado has lost its opening three games by 25 points or more.
Ibrahim scored the Gophers’ first three touchdowns, the last an 18-yard run in the second quarter that tied him with Darrell Thompson for Minnesota’s career rushing touchdowns record.
”DT was a big part of Minnesota history, so just to be tied up with him is amazing,” Ibrahim said.
”He’s going to give all the credit always to the offensive line and all those guys but he works his butt off every day. He deserves that. He’s earned that,” Morgan said.
Ibrahim grabbed another record too. His 202 rushing yards is a school-record fourth time he’s run for 200-plus yards in a game.
”He’s something else,” Fleck said.
Morgan completed 11 of his 16 passes for 157 yards. After throwing an interception in the second quarter, Morgan threw two touchdown passes in the second quarter – a 39-yard strike to Chris Autman-Bell and a 16-yard throw to Dylan Wright – and added another in the third quarter.
And while offense looked easy for the Gophers, the same can’t be said for the Buffaloes. Colorado rotated sophomores J.T. Shrout and Brendon Lewis at quarterback and couldn’t find success with either of them. Shrout started the game but was replaced by Lewis for the second series after Shrout was striped and sacked on the Buffaloes’ first offensive snap.
”We knew we were going to come out and attack them,” Minnesota linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin said. ”We talked about all week that we needed to get more takeaways.”
That set the tone. From there, Shrout and Lewis rotated series by series without success. Shrout completed 4-of-11 passes for 24 yards and one touchdown. Lewis completed 2-of-6 passes for 14 yards. The Buffaloes’ fourth quarter touchdown, a 4-yard touchdown throw from Shrout to Aubrey Smith, was the second touchdown the Gophers’ defense has allowed all season.
The Gophers beat the Buffaloes 30-0 in Boulder, Colo. last season.
It marked the return of Mike Sanford to the Twin Cities, now the offensive coordinator for the Buffaloes. Sanford was fired by Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck last November after two seasons as the Gophers’ offensive coordinator.
Minnesota wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell left the game in the second quarter with an apparent right knee injury. Autman-Bell fell to the ground holding the knee after attempting to corral an errant pass from Morgan. He could not put any weight on his right leg as he left the field. Autman-Bell was the Gophers’ No. 1 in 2021 and led the team in receiving through two games this season. He was taken to the hospital for imaging.
”It’s unfortunate. He reaches back for a ball, takes a funky step and hurts himself,” said Fleck, who had no further update postgame. ”Whatever it is, he’ll handle it the right way.”
Colorado’s offensive struggles continue. The Buffaloes have averaged 10 points through three games and have yet to score two touchdowns in a game.
Minnesota rolled through non-conference play, outscoring opponents 149-17. The Gophers’ three non-conference opponents went 8-27 in 2021 and are winless so far in 2022. Headed to Big Ten play the schedule gets tougher.
Colorado hosts UCLA in its Pac-12 Conference opener.
Minnesota travels to Michigan State for its first road and Big 10 Conference game of the season.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/ap-top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/mrxhe6f2