Mitch Leidner ran for two scores and threw a touchdown pass to Donovahn Jones, leading Minnesota to a season-opening 42-20 victory over Eastern Illinois on Thursday night.
Leidner finished 9 for 17 with 144 yards, David Cobb carried 14 times for 78 yards and the defense delivered a punishing performance to overwhelm the Panthers, a perennial FCS power facing the Gophers for the first time.
Jalen Whitlow, a transfer from Kentucky, went 14 for 23 passing for 110 yards and rushed 19 times for 92 yards. He had an interception, though, and took two sacks on a mistake-marred night for the Panthers.
Eric Murray blocked a punt near the goal line for the Gophers that Logan Hutton grabbed for a three-touchdown lead.