MINNEAPOLIS -- For the second straight year, Minnesota played an ugly game against Toledo. But this time, the Golden Gophers won.
The Gophers overcame Toledo's strong running game, scrambling quarterback and massive offensive line to wrestle away a 31-21 win over the Rockets on Saturday. Asad Abdul-Khaliq ran for a career-high 103 yards and a touchdown and also threw for a score to lead the Gophers to a hard-fought victory.
"We showed everybody that we can go four quarters and come out with a win," said Abdul-Khaliq, whose team passed its first real test of the season after two blowout wins over weaker opponents.
Minnesota (3-0) avenged last year's 38-7 defeat at Toledo's Glass Bowl. The outcome was in doubt until the final quarter, when Abdul-Khaliq found Ben Utecht for a 21-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 1:05 left.
Utecht, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight end, was matched up against a smaller cornerback, Jehu Anderson, and found himself alone down the right side.
"It's something we run in practice every once in while," Utecht said. "It puts me up against a cornerback and it just worked perfectly."
William Bratton ran 16 times for 114 yards and three touchdowns behind Toledo's offensive line, which opened holes all over Minnesota's overmatched defensive front. The Gophers also had to chase quarterback Brian Jones all over the backfield. Jones ran for 54 yards and went 23 of 30 for 195 yards.
"It was a hard hitting game," Gophers coach Glen Mason said.
The Rockets (2-1) converted 6-of-13 third down opportunities and went 2-for-4 on fourth down.
Toledo caught Minnesota off guard twice in the second half. The first time nearly resulted in a touchdown off a fake punt when kicker Jason Cox hit Carl Ford for a 56-yard pass into the Gophers end zone. But the play was called back for offensive pass interference.
Then, in the fourth quarter, Toledo lined up to kick a field goal with 6:50 left when holder Bruce Gradowski tried to flip the ball to Bratton. But Bratton couldn't hold onto the ball and Minnesota took over on downs.
"Their guy came in and when we pitched the ball, he made contact and pushed me backwards," Bratton said.
Toledo coach Tom Amstutz, who called a fake punt earlier in the game, defended his decisions.
"In football, you play to win and try for any advantage you can, especially in a game like this, against a Big Ten team on the road," he said. "You take risks."
But Mason's risk paid off when Abdul-Khaliq, who went 10-for-16 for 110 yards with an interception, found Utecht for his lone touchdown pass of the game. Mason told his team to go for it on fourth-and-four.
"If you play it by the book, you kick the field goal," Mason said. "I said go for it and everyone looked at me like I was crazy."
Marion Barber III, originally listed as the starting tailback this season, didn't play after reinjuring his hamstring last week.
Toledo 14 0 7 0 -- 21
Minnesota 7 7 7 10 -- 31
Tol--Bratton 45 run (Robbins kick) 11:52.
Minn--Jackson 5 run (Nystrom kick), 9:10.
Tol--Bratton 3 run (Robbins kick), 2:17.
Minn--Abdul-Khaliq 2 run (Nystom kick), 1:38.
Minn--Tapeh 31 run (Nystrom kick), 11:58.
Tol--Bratton 2 run (Robbins kick), 7:13.
Minn--FG Nystrom 21, 10:53.
Minn--Utecht 21 pass from Abdul-Khaliq (Nystrom kick), 1:05.
First downs 22 18
Rushes-yards 39-233 43-263
Passing 195 110
Comp-Att-Int 23-31-0 10-16-1
Return Yards 145 67
Punts-Avg. 1-48 3-42.3
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 1-0
Penalties-Yards 8-80 6-36
Time of Possession 31:11 27:44
RUSHING--Toledo, Bratton 16-114, Jones 3-54, Dawson 16-51, Green 1-8. Minnesota, Abdul-Khaliq 10-103, Jackson 21-83, Tapeh 11-74, Burns 1-3.
PASSING--Toledo, Jones 23-30-0 195. Minnesota, 10-16-1 110.
RECEIVING--Toledo, Greene 6-52, Ford 6-34, Clarke 4-55, Johnson 4-16. Minnesota, Utecht 3-42, Hosack 2-43, Burns 2-16, Mays 1-9.
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