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In the first half Thursday, Gophers coach P.J. Fleck's offense to open the 2023 season was far from producing fireworks, but there was a newcomer who carried the load in the passing game early in the 13-10 victory over Nebraska.

Western Michigan transfer Corey Crooms Jr. made a case to be quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis' go-to guy to open the game with five catches in the first quarter. He finished with seven receptions for 63 yards.

The most explosive play in the first half was Crooms' 20-yard catch to end the first quarter. That eventually set up the 37-yard field goal that helped the Gophers take a 3-0 halftime lead.

It was the ninth consecutive time in his career that Crooms caught at least three passes in a game, but the first four years were spent with the Broncos. He earned Mid-American Conference second-team honors in 2022.

"I love playing with Corey," Kaliakmanis said. "I got a great relationship with him. Not only Corey but Sean [Tyler], too, and [Elijah Spencer]. They all made huge plays tonight in critical moments in the game. I'm super blessed to have them here. ... They're huge additions for sure."

Kaliakmanis, who took over for four-year starter Tanner Morgan, returned two reliable receiving threats with junior wideout Daniel Jackson and senior tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford. Jackson led the Gophers with nine catches for 68 yards, including their only touchdown of the game on a clutch 13-yarder in the fourth quarter. Spann-Ford had five catches for 45 yards.

The 6-foot, 195-pound Crooms had two of the longest plays of the game for the Gophers. His second 20-yard catch came in the third quarter with his team driving deep into Nebraska territory. But the drive ended abruptly on the next play when Kaliakmanis was intercepted.

Fleck saw several players make their Gophers debut on Thursday. Here were some of the notable performances:

* Elon transfer Tre'Von Jones won the starting cornerback spot opposite Justin Walley in fall camp. Jones started 27 games at the FCS level and showed that experience in the opener. Jones led the Gophers with nine tackles and had one of their three interceptions (other two were by Tyler Nubin).

* Western Michigan transfer Sean Tyler, an All-MAC running back last season, had enormous shoes to fill with the Gophers' all-time leading rusher Mo Ibrahim graduating. Fleck went with a two-back approach Thursday, including Bryce Williams. But Tyler still finished with a team-high 10 carries for 41 yards, including an 11-yard run that set up the game-winning 47-yard field goal by Dragan Kesich.

*Linebacker Ryan Selig, another Western Michigan transfer who was a Broncos teammate of Crooms and Tyler, finished with two tackles and a quarterback hurry against Nebraska. Selig's presence helped to replace Cody Lindenberg, who was out with an injury.

* Charlotte transfer Elijah Spencer had one catch for 9 yards. He was one of the five players who caught passes from Kaliakmanis.

* The top recruit in Fleck's 2023 recruiting class, freshman tailback Darius Taylor, saw action in his first collegiate game. The Michigan native had one carry for 3 yards.