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Special teams and defense lead the way to victory.
By: Michael Potter
The Gophers opened up the 2013 season in a special way, a 51-23 win over the Rebels of UNLV.
Sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson looked good in the first game of the year. After throwing an early interception, Nelson settled down to finish the game 10-22 passing for 99 yards and one touchdown. Nelson also rushed for 83 yards and two touchdowns. With time running out in the first half, Nelson found freshman tight end, Maxx Williams, crossing for a 10-yard touchdown pass.
After a slow first half, the Gophers came out in the second fired up. Marcus Jones, coming off two ACL surgeries, returned the kickoff 98 yards to start the third quarter. "It couldn't happen to a better person, with what Marcus Jones has been through," head coach Jerry Kill said. "Two ACL injuries, and his return was well-executed."
Standout defensive lineman, Ra’Shede Hageman, led the way, blocking a field goal attempt. "I think it (the blocked FG) was a big boost for us," Hageman said. Following the block, Hageman had the presence of mind to push the ball from the scrum to the waiting hands of Martez Shabazz for a 51-yard touchdown return.
Junior defensive back, Briean Boddy-Calhoun had his first career interception, returning it 89 yards for the score with about 10 minuets left in the fourth quarter.
Some unfortunate news from the game, Gophers leading rusher from last season, Donnell Kirkwood, left the game with what coach Kill called, “a turned ankle.” Kirkwood had 11 carries for 30 yards before exiting the game. His status for next week’s game verse New Mexico St. is unknown.