Minn vs. New Mexico State: 5 things you need to know

Published 9:22 pm Monday, August 27, 2018

1. Minnesota kicks off its 10th season at TCF Bank Stadium when it welcomes New Mexico State to campus for a 6 p.m. game on Thursday. This will be the third all-time meeting between the schools, and the series is tied 1-1. Minnesota won the last meeting, 44-21, on the road on Sept. 7, 2013. Minnesota is 6-3 all-time in season-openers at TCF Bank Stadium and won head coach P.J. Fleck’s debut last year 17-7 against Buffalo. The win made Fleck the school’s first head coach to win his debut since John Gutekunst in 1986 when the Gophers beat Bowling Green 31-7. Minnesota’s previous six head coaches before Fleck lost their debut games. 

2. Minnesota was 5-7 in its first year under Coach Fleck. Those five wins were the most by a first-year Gopher head coach new to the program since the legendary Murray Warmath won seven games in 1954. After beating Buffalo, Minnesota posted a dominating 48-14 win at Oregon State, which made Fleck the first Gopher coach to win a true road opener since 1954 when  Warmath and the Gophers won 46-7 at Pittsburgh. Minnesota’s 34-point win at Oregon State was the Gophers’ 10th largest margin of victory in a road game since 1920 and largest since 2006. The 48 points were the most the Gophers scored on the road since they beat Northwestern 49-21 in 1980.

3. The Gophers have 113 players on the roster this season and 60 of those players are either true freshmen or redshirt freshmen. That’s the highest number in college football. Virginia is next at 50 percent and is then followed by Wake Forest (49.1 percent) and UCF (48.03 percent). The Gophers have 79 underclassmen of the roster, which is 69.9 percent of the team. That percentage ranks sixth in college football behind only Illinois, Appalachian State, Wake Forest, UCLA and Virginia.

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4. The position with the least experience on the roster is also the most important: quarterback. The Gophers will enter the 2018 season with the youngest and most inexperienced quarterbacks in the country. Minnesota has four freshman quarterbacks on its roster, meaning that the quarterbacks have attempted zero passes in a collegiate game. Minnesota is the only team in the nation that has all freshmen quarterbacks on the roster and is one of three teams, joining Kentucky and Nebraska,  who do not have a quarterback who has attempted a pass.

5. Fleck named walk-on true freshman Zack Annexstad the starting quarterback for the season opener. Annexstad joined the Gophers in January after enrolling early from IMG Academy in Florida. He is believed to be the second walk-on true freshman quarterback to start a season opener, joining Baker Mayfield, who started his first game at Texas Tech in 2013 after walking on.