In the first match of the season for both Saint Johns and Minnesota, the Gophers endured a penalty-strewn first half before running away to a 52-19 victory over their hosts.
This fall marks the first season with recently-appointed Jimmy Hanson as head coach, and the first true marker of the team's progress under his watch. With trys scored by both forwards and backs and from every part of the field, it was a resounding success.
Minnesota's performance during the opening minutes left much to be desired. Referee Leah Bernard, widely regarded as one of the world's best, kept a keen eye on the break down and Minnesota players did not heed her warnings - multiple penalties for not rolling away from the ruck kept the Gophers on their back foot just feet from their goal line. SJU would capitalize on these errors, sending their forwards crashing over the line for a 0-5 lead.
SJU would control possession for most of the 1st half, battering the Gophers' defense phase after phase. But Minnesota held firm, aided by a dominant scrum, and soon Ryan Wolfe would escape up the touch line, out pacing Saint Johns and scoring Minnesota's first points.
Minnesota would score again during the 1st half via Troy Gotch, which was answered by a try to SJU. The half would end 14-12 to Minnesota.
The second half belonged to Minnesota.
Only a few seconds in and Troy Gotch was put into space on the right wing for his second try of the day. 21-12, to Minnesota. Saint Johns settled back into their game plan quickly, however, and began to turn the pressure back on. While attacking the Minnesota goal line, referee Bernard judged the Gophers to have committed a cynical penalty and delivered a yellow card, narrowing down Minnesota to 14 men for the remainder of the half. SJU took the opportunity to push a quick try over the line. 21-19 MN
SJU would not score again, as Minnesota scored 31 unanswered points to finish out the match, ending with a 52-19 victory.