David Cobb had 29 carries for two touchdowns and a career-high 220 yards, the most for the program in nine years, and Minnesota outlasted Middle Tennessee for a 35-24 victory on Saturday.
Donnell Kirkwood also had a first-quarter touchdown run for the Golden Gophers (2-0), who rushed for 284 yards.
Reggie Whatley scored twice for the Blue Raiders (1-1) while rushing for 84 yards on 14 attempts, but despite 255 yards passing Austin Grammer was picked off three times. Jalen Myrick returned one for a score.
Mitch Leidner threw a pretty 27-yard touchdown pass to tight end Maxx Williams in the second quarter immediately after Damien Wilson's interception for the Gophers, but he completed just 5 of 11 passes for 67 yards and was picked off in the end zone right before halftime.
With Cobb rumbling through the line, deftly reading the defense and breaking tackles down the field, another uneven passing performance didn't affect the Gophers. Cobb was the first 200-yard rusher for the Gophers since Amir Pinnix on Nov. 12, 2005, against Michigan State. Cobb's total was the highest since Laurence Maroney rushed for 258 yards against Wisconsin on Oct. 15, 2005.
Cobb was quiet in the opener against FCS opponent Eastern Illinois, but he took a big step -- several quick ones, actually -- toward the 1,200 yards he totaled last season. With the senior Kirkwood, bruiser Rodrick Williams and flashy freshman Berkley Edwards, the Gophers have a deep, talented backfield. But this is Cobb's show, and the senior from Killeen, Texas, is just getting going with eight career starts.
The Blue Raiders were the last team to lose to the Gophers under previous head coach Tim Brewster, 24-17 in the 2010 opener in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, but they had the lead for much of that game.
Not on this afternoon, when the Gophers built a 28-0 lead late in the second quarter.
With seven starters on offense gone from a team that went 8-5 last year, the Blue Raiders have some work to do. Grammer threw some wobbly passes, and he faced plenty of pressure in the pocket. A couple of his on-target throws were dropped. But the sophomore, who made his first career start in a 61-7 win over FCS foe Savannah State last week, found a rhythm in the second half while the Blue Raiders were trying to catch up.
Some long runs by Whatley and Jordan Parker helped, too, against a Gophers defense that didn't give them anything before the intermission. Grammer threw a touchdown pass to Marcus Henry to make the score more respectable late in the game.
The Blue Raiders, in their ninth season under head coach Rick Stockstill, fell to 0-5 against Big Ten teams.