- Associated Press - Friday, September 4, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Mitch Leidner went down with a hard hit from his blind side on Minnesota’s second possession, a sack-turnover combination that set up a touchdown for TCU two plays later.

Rodrick Williams lost the ball for the Golden Gophers on the 1-yard line as he absorbed a low tackle and stretched out his arm, leading to a touchback for the Horned Frogs in the second quarter.

Two costly fumbles. One big missed opportunity against the second-ranked team in the country.

Trevone Boykin passed for 246 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 92 yards and another score to help the Frogs outlast the Gophers 23-17 on Thursday night in the season opener.

Yes, the Gophers were outgained 449 total yards to 341 and trailed the entire time. But there were chances to give the Frogs an even greater challenge than they did.



“There was no doubt in our mind at all during this whole week of preparation, all of camp, the whole entire game today,” Leidner said. “No matter what was happening, we thought we were going to win that football game.”

Boykin started his Heisman push by completing 26 of 42 passes, but he also had an interception and badly overthrew a couple of wide-open receivers. The 23 points against a determined, experienced Minnesota defense were the fewest scored since by TCU since Nov. 9, 2013, in a 21-17 victory over Iowa State.

The Gophers lost 30-7 in Fort Worth, Texas, last year. That was the lowest-scoring game for the Frogs all season.

“I knew that we got better on defense so the score doesn’t really surprise me,” Minnesota cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun said.

The Frogs put plenty of pressure on Leidner, who went 19 for 35 for 197 yards and a touchdown pass to K.J. Maye with 1:32 left. The absence of left tackle Josh Campion, who was scratched because of a concussion, was costly. His replacement, Ben Lauer, needed knee surgery during fall camp. Lauer missed the block that led to Leidner’s fumble. Jonah Pirsig eventually moved there from right tackle.

“You get hit in the back three or four different times, it’s difficult,” coach Jerry Kill said, of Leidner.

Maye had four catches for 73 yards. Rodney Smith rushed for 88 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown in his debut for the Gophers, who haven’t beaten a top 10 team in the Associated Press poll at home since 1977.

“If we got beat 50-0 or something I might have to worry about it,” Kill said, adding: “We played the No. 2 team in the country, and we had a chance to win. So certainly they should be disappointed, but also they’ve got a lot to look forward to.”

The fumbles, obviously, were critical. Those were the mistakes Minnesota couldn’t have if an upset were to be executed. But there were a handful of lower-profile misses that hurt just as much.

Maye dropped a third-and-8 pass on the opening drive, just across midfield, forcing the first of seven punts by Peter Mortell. Leidner went long and sneaked a ball between two defenders on first down in the second quarter, but Eric Carter let it slip through his hands around the 10 and the Gophers wound up with only a field goal on that possession.

Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell nearly intercepted Boykin in the flat shortly before halftime, with the entire field in front of him and only the quarterback in position to try to stop a touchdown return.

“We felt if we could keep them under 30 points, we’d have a chance to win,” Kill said. “If you really look at it, if we don’t turn the ball over, we’re going to have that opportunity.”

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