Gopher football: P.J. Fleck reflects on best catches during his tenure

John Autey/Pioneer Press/TNS

P.J. Fleck called it a “loaded” question.

On the spot Monday, the Pioneer Press asked the Gophers football head coach to come up with what he viewed as the best catches since he came to Minnesota in 2017.

Daniel Jackson’s toe-drag reception on the side of the end zone to help beat Nebraska in last week’s season opener has certainly joined this short list.

For starters, the U’s banner 11-2 season in 2019 was loaded with highlight receptions: Rashod Bateman’s one-handed touchdown against South Dakota State; Chris Autman-Bell’s back-of-the-end-zone grab vs. Fresno State; Demetrius Douglas’s two catches to convert out of a third-and-30 hole vs. Georgia Southern; and Tyler Johnson’s one-handed snag in the Outback Bowl vs. Auburn.

Which other catches stand out?

“Bryce Witham against Auburn,” Fleck said. “The one-handed catch might be the best one.”

It was fourth and one and Minnesota led 31-24 in the fourth quarter in Tampa, Fla. The Gophers had called timeout. Interim offensive coordinator Matt Simon wanted to throw a play-action pass to Witham, a backup tight end who came into the bowl game with only one catch on the year.

“ ‘Are you sure?” Fleck asked Simon. “Coach Simon is a pretty laid-back guy. (And he said,) ‘Yeah.’ ”

Fleck also mentioned Johnson’s catch in the Georgia Southern game, when the Minneapolis native was pass-interfered with but still caught the touchdown.

Fleck also included a few interceptions in the mix.

Antoine Winfield’s contortions to be able to snag an INT against Fresno State in 2018, Josh Aune’s pick to seal the Purdue win in 2020 and Jordan Howden’s game-clinching takeaway versus Penn State in 2019.

“You asked a loaded question because there is a lot of them,” Fleck said. “There is offense and defense, which is pretty cool.”

Related Articles