Football: Gophers take glory in stadium's inaugural game

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Meredith Kirchoff
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
Showing off for a sold-out home crowd, the Minnesota Gophers emerged victorious in a 20-13 win over Air Force at the inaugural game for the University's new TCF Bank Stadium Sept. 12.

The Falcons won the battles of total offensive yards with 386, offensive plays, first downs with 24 to Minnesota's 14, time of possession and least number of penalties. However, they lost the war of points on the board when the game clock expired.

"There were times during the game we played good," said Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun. "To win here, we had to play great, and we did not."

In a tied fourth-quarter game, the Gophers swayed the momentum tide decisively in their favor when Minnesota tackle Brandon Kirksey stripped the ball from Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson. The fumble was recovered by linebacker Brandon Triplett, who ran for a 52-yard touchdown return.

Triplett had the game of his career with his first collegiate touchdown and a personal record of 17 tackles.

While Minnesota put the first points on the board with a 34-yard field goal in the first quarter, the Falcons weren't far behind.

Air Force strong safety Chris Thomas forced a fumble from Minnesota's MarQueis Gray leading to a recovery by defensive lineman Rick Ricketts. The turnover resulted in a 20-yard field goal by Academy sophomore Erik Soderberg to tie the score.

The Falcons stole Gopher thunder by scoring the first touchdown in TCF Bank Stadium history. Jefferson connected with wide receiver Kevin Fogler for a 37-yard touchdown pass near the end of the 3rd quarter.

Jefferson's passing proficiency was soon overshadowed by Junior Adam Weber, the Minnesota quarterback, who broke the school's career pass completion record with 540. Weber would finish the game with 552 completions.

Minnesota rallied in the fourth quarter beginning with a 7-yard touchdown run by DeLeon Eskridge to answer the Air Force point posting. On the next drive, Triplett found his scoop and score opportunity to increase the lead.

Another Gopher field goal ensued; this time a 39-yard good attempt by kicker Eric Ellestad.

Air Force wrestled down the field for 20 plays and 67 yards in the last offensive drive of the game and earned a 31-yard field goal at the end.

With 63 seconds on the clock, Soderberg attempted a critical on-side kick, but a Minnesota recovery squashed any further opportunity for Air Force.

Sophomore running back Asher Clark finished as the Falcons' leading rusher with 90 yards on 12 carries, while Fogler lead the Falcons in receiving yards with 56 on two receptions.

Coach Calhoun emphasized of his young team, "I'm not disappointed in our guys' effort, not at all, but we've got to accelerate the maturation process."

Air Force will play at New Mexico Sept. 19 for their first conference contest of the season before returning to Falcon Stadium Sept. 26 to take on the Aztecs of San Diego State University.