MINNEAPOLIS — Conor Rhoda is taking over for good as Minnesota’s quarterback.
Brent Stockstill may have a banged-up shoulder, but he says he won’t let it stop him from leading Middle Tennessee State on another upset quest.
Quarterbacks will be the center of attention when the Golden Gophers (2-0) host the Blue Raiders today, hoping to deliver a little payback after Middle Tennessee eliminated Minnesota in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in March.
Rhoda shared the job with Demry Croft through the first two weeks of the season, with coach P.J. Fleck openly hoping to see one of the two grab hold of the job through his performance on the field and leadership off of it. After a 48-14 victory over Oregon State in which Croft was benched for much of the game because of a fumble, Fleck made the call to make Rhoda the starter.
“It’s a really great feeling, obviously,” Rhoda said this week. “Just going through everything I’ve gone through over the last five years, there were a lot of days I thought this would never happen. It just really brings everything full circle and shows all the hard work I put in.”
That decision was only strengthened when Fleck announced on Tuesday that Croft would not be with the team against the Blue Raiders because of an unspecified disciplinary matter. It remains unclear how long Croft will be out, but Fleck intimated that it would be for more than just one week.
“Nothing ever will sacrifice the culture,” Fleck said. “Winning won’t, either, or having two quarterbacks, that will never compromise our culture.”
There is no debate who leads the Blue Raiders (1-1). Stockstill owns Middle Tennessee career records for touchdown passes and yards passing per game and has endeared himself to teammates with his toughness. Last week in a victory over Syracuse he finished the game despite taking a crunching hit to the shoulder. He led touchdown drives on three straight possessions in the second half of the 30-23 victory.
“He’s done it all his life,” said Raiders coach Rick Stockstill, Brent’s father. “That game, especially in the second half after he got hurt, to do what he did was pretty incredible. I think it rallied our offense behind him. The toughness that not only he showed but our team showed, was pretty special.”
Brent Stockstill had an MRI earlier this week, but said he expected to play today.
“I’m doing good. Just got a little banged up,” he said. “That’s part of the game, part of playing the position.”