By: Kate Butler |

Minneapolis, MN - The Gophers took the field at TCF Bank Stadium tonight against UNLV for the first game of the 2013-2014 season. At the time of kickoff, it was a blistering 91 degrees, something not even the Rebels from Nevada could prepare for. In the end, through rigorous line changing and unmatched endurance, the Gophers proved that they could, in fact, stand the heat.

Both teams seemed to get off to a bit of a slow start, most likely due to the heat. “I think it zapped us a bit early on, but I’m not trying to make excuses,” said Coach Kill in a post-game press conference. Midway through the first quarter, UNLV set the tone when Tim Cornett marched in a 26-yard touchdown. After a few “self-inflicted wounds” as Kill likes to say about small, personal mistakes, the Gophers got on the board with a 25-yard field goal from Chris Hawthorne to close the first quarter.

It took just over a minute for a 48-yard touchdown by play-action keeper, QB Philip Nelson, complete with an extra point from Hawthorne. The Gophers didn’t keep their 10-6 lead long, as a 34-yard pass from Sherry to Davis resulted in a UNLV touchdown.  After two incomplete touchdown attempts in a row to Engel, Nelson finally connected with red-shirt Freshman Maxx Williams on a diving catch with only 0:18 in the half.

The second half opened with an explosive 98-yard kickoff return touchdown by Gopher Marcus Jones just 0:12 into the half. After an extra point from Hawthorne, Minnesota took the lead 23-13. Martez Shabazz blocked a field goal return seven minutes later for an amazing back-to-back special teams touchdown. UNLV’s Kohorst put up a field goal just before the end of the quarter, opening the final segment of the game with a score of 30-16.

The final quarter was barely underway before Briean Boddy-Calhoun scored a touchdown on a beautiful 89-yard interception return, with the extra point the Gophers were up 37-16. A 5-yard touchdown from QB Nelson gave the Gophers a steady 43-16 lead, but they weren’t done yet.  A one-yard touchdown from UNLV seemed to give the Gophers one more burst of momentum. Red-shirt Freshman Mitch Leidner stepped in for Nelson with just over 3 minutes left to play, and landed a 4-yard touchdown to close out the game at 51-23.

Ra’Shede Hageman went down in the 2nd with what looked to be a knee injury. Hageman, however, was right back on the field, calling it “just a boo boo” a post-game interview.

Donnell Kirkwood went down with a right ankle injury in the third quarter, after an xray it was determined he could not finish the game.

 - At 51 points, tonight’s game marks the most points the Gophers have scored at The Bank.
 - Alex Keith had the first sack of the year to finish out the first half.
 - Red-shirt Freshman Maxx Williams caught his first pass of his college career to score the first TD of his college career.
 - The 98-yard kickoff return TD by Marcus Jones was the first touchdown on a kickoff return for Minnesota since 2011.

Press Conference bits
"To win games you have to be able to make plays in the kicking game and we still have to get a lot better, that’s evident, but we’ll keep working on it." Said Coach Jerry Kill regarding their approach to the game tonight and moving forward.

"First catch in college, one touchdown, I mean, you can’t really ask for more. It’s been a dream to play college football." Said Maxx Williams of his experience this evening.

When asked if he felt as though he had lost any speed through the recovery of two ACL surgeries, Marcus Jones simply replied with a smile and said, "Do I look like I have?"