Minnesota passed 33 times in its opening victory over New Mexico State. Freshman quarterback Zack Annexstad hit on 16 of those throws and averaged 6.7 yards per attempt. Coaches gave him a lot of quick throws, used some play-action and run-pass option, which was to be expected.
But the thing that most benefited Annexstad was the wideouts’ ability to turn simple throws into something much bigger.
That could be a trouble spot for Fresno State on Saturday when it tries to take down a Power Five opponent for the first time since 2012, taking on the Golden Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium.
Annexstad had 220 passing yards, and roughly 140 of it came on yards after the catch.
That didn’t escape the Bulldogs, who in a 79-13 rout of Idaho in their opener allowed the Vandals to complete only 42.4 percent of their passes (14 of 33) and picked off five passes, more than half their total from a year ago when they had nine.
“We have a good game plan set up,” cornerback Jaron Bryant said.
Fresno State is a good tackling team, but that could become an issue against an athletic and physical group of Minnesota receivers led by Tyler Johnson, who caught five passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns in an opening victory over New Mexico State.
Johnson, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior, averaged 19.3 yards per reception last season and over his past 11 games has nine touchdowns in 40 receptions.
Against New Mexico State, he caught a 7-yard touchdown pass when obliterating the corner on a slant and a 33-yard touchdown taking on another short pass and blasting his way 25 yards into the end zone. Johnson also broke a tackle making a catch on a short out route and turned it into a 33-yard gain.
“We’re still watching film on them,” Bryant said. “At the end of the day, you have to play football.”
Get ready for Minnesota
Fresno State at Minnesota, 4:30 p.m. Pacific Saturday. TV: FS1 (find a channel guide here)
Each Fresno State football game week Robert Kuwada will report on keys to the game:
▪ 3 things to watch
▪ That’s trouble (Something the opponent does that could play well against Fresno State)
▪ Need to know