Rodney Smith ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns, Conor Rhoda threw for a score in his first career start and Minnesota defeated error-prone Maryland 31-10 Saturday.
Combining a strong defensive performance with a low-risk offensive game plan, the Golden Gophers (4-2, 1-2) built a 14-0 lead at halftime and coasted to the finish.
Smith’s 70-yard touchdown run with 9:30 left made it 24-3, and Antoine Winfield Jr. sealed the victory late in the game with an 82-yard interceptions return.
Starting for senior Mitch Leidner , who was out with a concussion, Rhoda went 7 for 15 for 82 yards without an interception. The former walk-on had previously thrown only two passes in a mop-up role.
Rhoda spent most of the afternoon handing off the football to Smith and Shannon Brooks, who ran for 86 yards on 22 carries.
Maryland (4-2, 1-2) also started its second-string quarterback, using true freshman Tyrrell Pigrome for injured Perry Hills (shoulder). The Terrapins did all their scoring in the fourth quarter and made way too many mistakes in their second straight lopsided loss.
Pigrome threw for 161 yards and ran for 70. But Maryland could muster only 100 yards in offense through three quarters, finished with three turnovers and was penalized nine times for 75 yards.
The Terrapins didn’t score in the second half last week in a 38-14 defeat at Penn State and had gone five quarters without a TD before Pigrome threw an 11-yard pass to D.J. Moore with 5:42 remaining.
Minnesota: The Golden Gophers appears to have found their groove defensively. They’ve allowed only two TDs over the last two games.
Maryland: The Terps have gone south after a 4-0 start, losing two straight behind a sputtering offense that really needs Hills back under center.
Minnesota hosts Rutgers next Saturday. The Scarlet Knights are winless in Big Ten play.
Maryland hosts Michigan State under the lights next Saturday. Spartans won 24-7 last year.