Spann-Ford returns for Gophers but Lindenberg remains out

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The Gophers received good news Saturday when one of their best offensive weapons was not included among players listed as out or questionable on the Big Ten injury report for the game against No. 20 North Carolina.

Tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford, who led the team with 42 receptions last year, took a hard hit in the fourth quarter of last week's game against Eastern Michigan. He spent several minutes in the injury tent and did not return to the game. But on Saturday, he was cleared to play.

Spann-Ford, who entered the game ranking third on the team with seven receptions for 50 yards, caught two passes for 6 yards but had a couple of drops, including a tipped attempted catch that North Carolina intercepted.

Linebacker Cody Lindenberg, who missed the first two games because of an undisclosed injury suffered in the week leading up to the Nebraska game, was listed as questionable but was not in uniform for pregame warmups and did not play.

Wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell, who has been limited because of the knee injury that ended his season in Week 4 last year, was listed as questionable but played. He did not catch a pass.

Prominent players listed as out were running back Bryce Williams, defensive lineman Darnell Jefferies, defensive back Craig McDonald (awaiting NCAA waiver decision) and linebackers Derik LeCaptain and Jack Tinnen.

North Carolina was without starting kicker Ryan Coe, who is 3-for-4 on field-goal attempts and had handled all 12 kickoffs this season.

Carolina connections

The Gophers had some North Carolina connections in Saturday's game.

Greg Harbaugh Jr., co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, is a Raleigh native who was coaching in front of a large group of family and friends.

Defensive lineman Chris Collins is a transfer from North Carolina, while cornerback Tre'Von Jones is a Warrenton, N.C., native and transfer from Elon. Safety Coleman Bryson is from Waynesville, N.C.


• The Gophers-North Carolina game wasn't the only major college football game in the Research Triangle area on Saturday. North Carolina State was host to Virginia Military Institute in a game that started at 2 p.m. Eastern, while Northwestern at Duke and the Gophers at UNC followed at 3:30 Eastern.

• Under coach P.J. Fleck, the Gophers fell to 19-2 in nonconference games, including bowls. The only other loss was to Bowling Green in 2021.

• The Gophers fell to 16-8 all-time against teams from the ACC. This game marked their first meeting with North Carolina and their first game ever in the state of North Carolina. The game also was their first road contest against an ACC team. They've faced Pittsburgh and Syracuse of the ACC on the road, but both were Big East members at the time.

• Former Gophers running back Tommy Watson, an entrepreneur, author and speaker based in Charlotte, gave the speech during Saturday's captains' breakfast. Watson played for the Gophers from 1992 to '96.

• During Saturday's "College GameDay" on ESPN, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso picked the Gophers to beat North Carolina, while Desmond Howard, Pat McAfee and Dwayne "The Rock'' Johnson went with the Tar Heels.