P.J. Fleck wore the look of relief mixed with happiness and concern.
"When you leave a window for a team like that, they're going to run right through that thing,'' the Gophers football coach said following his team's closer-than-expected 31-26 victory over Miami (Ohio) on Saturday.
Tanner Morgan shouldered the blame for the third-quarter offensive struggles that helped Miami rally from 18 points down at halftime to 21-20 early in the fourth.
"That's on me,'' the senior quarterback said.
And Trey Potts, after rushing for 178 tough yards, left the postgame podium wearing the pride and pain of his 34 carries in his first career start.
"I definitely feel it a little bit,'' the sophomore running back said. "It is what it is, and I'm just ready to keep going.''
This victory for the Gophers at Huntington Bank Stadium was a mixed bag of a little bit of everything, just like their season has been so far.
They've played well at times, as they did in the first half when they led Miami 21-3, and in the opener when they held leads of 14-10 at halftime and 21-17 in the third quarter against Ohio State.
They've been inconsistent at times, as their passing game was in the second half Saturday when it gained no yards and saw all six of Morgan's passes fall incomplete.
"We weren't able to sustain drives, where in the first half we were,'' Fleck said. "And they capitalized on it.''
They've shown flashes of solid play on defense, such as the second quarter Saturday, when they held the RedHawks to 20 yards of offense. They've also seen the flip side, when Miami scored 25 points and gained 242 of its 341 yards in the second half.
Through two games, the Gophers are 1-1, a record that most observers would have expected. They'll face their next test at Colorado this coming Saturday against a Buffaloes team that just took No. 5 Texas A&M to the wire before losing 10-7 in Denver. Playing a Power Five opponent on the road provides an added challenge for a Minnesota team looking to find consistency.
Last Saturday, the Gophers built their 21-3 lead with a diversified offensive approach that saw Morgan complete seven of his first nine passes for 85 yards and two TDs, with Dylan Wright and Daniel Jackson each reaching the end zone. Meanwhile, Potts carried 18 times for 80 yards and a TD before intermission.
The second half saw Morgan go 0-for-6 passing over three series, with a couple of drops. With Miami inching way too close for the Gophers' comfort, Fleck turned the game over to Potts and the offensive line. Potts carried 18 times for 83 yards, a TD and five first downs in the fourth quarter, slamming the door on the RedHawks' upset hopes.
"Gutsy. That's Trey Potts,'' Fleck said. "… You don't know how somebody's going to react when it's that type of situation in that type of game. You know what Mo [Ibrahim] is going to do, but Mo's done that for years. Now Trey is showing what he can do.''
The Gophers, of course, know they'll need more than just a running game against upcoming opponents. The return of top wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell from a lower leg injury, possibly for the Colorado game, would give Morgan another good target along with Wright, Jackson and tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford. An offense that stays on the field will go a long way toward helping the defense develop.
"We've got to get way better,'' Fleck acknowledged.