CFN Take: Minnesota Gets Passed By Badgers
Minnesota Golden Gophers 2014 ...
Head Coach: Jerry Kill
Nov. 29 at Wisconsin 34, Minnesota 24
2014 Schedule |
Aug. 28 Eastern Illinois W 42-20
Sep. 6 Middle Tenn W 35-24
Sep. 13 at TCU L 30-7
Sep. 20 San Jose St W 24-7
Sep. 27 at Michigan W 30-14
Oct. 4 OPEN DATE
Oct. 11 Northwestern W 24-17
Oct. 18 Purdue W 39-38
Oct. 25 at Illinois L 28-24
Nov. 1 OPEN DATE
Nov. 8 Iowa W 51-14
Nov. 15 Ohio State L 31-24
Nov. 22 at Nebraska W 28-24
Nov. 29 at Wisconsin L
And You Care Because … After a rocky start – getting down 17-3 with Mitch Leidner and David Cobb each running for scores – Wisconsin controlled things the rest of the way going on a 31-7 scoring run with Melvin Gordon catching a four-yard touchdown pass and running for a one-yard score, and Joel Stave putting the game away on a 17-yard touchdown pass to Robert Wheelwright after Leidner brought the Gophers to within three in the fourth on a two-yard Leidner run. Corey Clement added a 28-yard touchdown run for the Badgers and Rafael Gaglianone nailed field goals from 24 and 38 yards away.
What Else? Before suffering an apparent ankle injury late, Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon ran 29 times for 151 yards and a score, and caught two passes for four yards with a touchdown
- Minnesota RB David Cobb ran 25 times for 118 yards and two scores
- Wisconsin WR Alex Erickson caught five passes for 160 yards
- Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner completed 5-of-18 passes for 95 yards, and ran 15 times for 54 yards and two scores
Game Rating: B
Nov. 22 Minnesota 28, at Nebraska 24
And You Care Because … Minnesota set itself up for a showdown vs. Wisconsin for a chance at the Big Ten West title with a tough win over the Huskers. Mitch Leidner ran for two short scores, with his second touchdown from three yards out giving the Gophers the lead with 3:25 to play, but it was the defense that came through late. Briean Boddy-Calhoun stripped Nebraska WR De’Mornay Pierson-El before he was able to get into the end zone, and Minnesota ran out the clock. The Gophers lost RB David Cobb in the second half, but Donnell Kirkwood and Leidner handled the ground game, overcoming a 21-7 halftime lead to control the second half. Nebraska got up on an 18-yard score from Pierson-El and a blocked field goa for a touchdown, but Minnesota outscored the Huskers 21-3 after halftime.
What Else? Time of possession: Minnesota 35:03 – Nebraska 24:57
- Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner completed 8-of-17 passes for 135 yards, and ran 22 times for 110 yards and two scores
- Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullar ran 20 times for 98 yards and a score
- Minnesota RB David Cobb ran 15 times for 80 yards and a score
Game Rating: B+
Nov. 15 Ohio State 31, at Minnesota 24
And You Care Because … In the snow and cold, J.T. Barrett ran through the weather and the Minnesota defense with an 86-yard scoring dash early on to go along with a 57-yard touchdown pass to Jalin Marshall for a 14-0 lead. David Cobb ran well for the Gophers, scoring three touchdowns including runs from five and 30 yards to tie it up, but Barrett found Michael Thomas for a 30-yard touchdown pass and Evan Spencer for a 22-yard score on the way to a commanding 31-14 lead. Cobb ran for a 12-yard score in the fourth and the Gophers pulled within seven on a late field goal, but the Buckeyes recovered the onside kick.
What Else? Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett completed 15-of-25 passes for 200 yards and three touchdowns with a pick, and ran 17 times for 189 yards and a score
- Minnesota RB David Cobb ran 27 times for 145 yards and three touchdowns
- Third down conversions: Ohio State 9-of-13 – Minnesota 5-of-14
- Turnovers: Ohio State 3 – Minnesota 2
Game Rating: B
Nov. 8 at Minnesota 51, Iowa 14
And You Care Because … Iowa got up 7-0 on a one-yard Mark Weisman touchdown run, and then it was the Maxx Williams show as the tight end caught three touchdown passes as part of a Minnesota run of 51 points. KJ Maye started out the scoring on a nine-yard run, and David Cobb rumbled for a six-yard score, but Williams was the star with touchdown catches from nine, four and three yards out. Mitch Leidner also found Donovahn Jones for a 44-yard touchdown. Iowa didn’t get back on the board until there were 14 seconds remaining on a 24-yard Andrew Stone catch.
What Else? Minnesota TE Maxx Williams caught five passes for 46 yards and three touchdowns
- Iowa QB Jake Rudock completed 10-of-19 passes for 89 yards and a pick
- Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner completed 10-of-13 passes for 138 yards and four touchdowns, and ran 11 times for a team-high 77 yards
- Time of possession: Minnesota 36:42 – Iowa 23:18
Game Rating: D+
Oct. 25 at Illinois 28, Minnesota 24
And You Care Because … Minnesota’s David Cobb was pushing for a little extra, but fumbled, leading to a scoop and score by V’Angelo Bentley from 12 yards out with just over six minutes to play. The Gophers got down 14-3 on a Reilly O’Toole nine-yard touchdown run and a three-yard pass to Jon Davis, but roared back in the second half with a 52-yard Isaac Fruechte scoring play and two touchdown runs from Cobb. Illinois stayed ahead on a two-yard Josh Ferguson run in the third, but it took the Bentley play to get ahead for good. Minnesota drove deep into Illinois territory late, but stalled.
What Else? Total yards: Minnesota 411 – Illinois 263
- Minnesota RB David Cobb 22 times for 118 yards and two touchdowns
- Illinois QB Reilly O’Toole completed 14-of-21 passes for 118 yards and a score, and led the team with 59 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries
- Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner completed 12-of-30 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown with a pick, and ran 11 times for just three yards
Game Rating: B
Oct. 18 at Minnesota 39, Purdue 38
And You Care Because … In a back-and-forth game full of wild big plays, Minnesota came up with a great second half with several long plays leading the way to a six-yard Mitch Leidner touchdown run, a 37-yard K.J. Maye scoring catch, and two Ryan Santoso field goals including a 52-yarder to put the Gophers up for good by one in the final five minutes. The D came up with a stop on Cedric Thompson’s second interception, and the offense ran out the clock. Purdue got three touchdown passes and a one-yard scoring run from Austin Appleby, but it was the running game that controlled the game for a while with Raheem Mostert taking off for a 42-yard touchdown as part of a huge day on the ground. Minnesota started off the scoring with a two-yard David Cobb touchdown run and stayed in the game with a three-yard Donnell Kirkwood run, but Purdue owns the second quarter with 17 straight points. Minnesota had the answer in the second half.
What Else? Rushing yards: Purdue 298 – Minnesota 285
- Purdue QB Austin Appleby completed 16-of-26 passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions, and ran ten times for 79 yards and a score
- Minnesota RB David Cobb ran 35 times for 194 yards and a touchdown
- Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner completed 9-of-18 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 13 times for 84 yards and a score
Game Rating: A
Oct. 11 at Minnesota 24, Northwestern 17
And You Care Because … Daniel Cobb and Mitch Leidner pounded out the ground game for Minnesota, with Leidner running for two one-yard touchdowns and Ryan Santoso hitting a 25-yard field goal, but Northwestern kept pace with Trevor Siemian hitting Justin Jackson for an 11-yard touchdown and tying the game up with a two-yard run. However, on the ensuing kickoff, Jalen Myrick returned it 100 yards for a score, and the Gophers held on for the win.
What Else? Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner completed 10-of-15 passes for 153 yards and an interception, and ran seven times for 31 yards and two touchdowns
- Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian completed 32-of-50 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown with an interception, and ran for a touchdown
- Minnesota RB Daniel Cobb ran 30 times for 97 yards
- Northwestern yards: 393 – Minnesota yards: 274
Game Rating: B
Sept. 27 Minnesota 30, at Michigan 14
And You Care Because … In an utter disaster for the Wolverines, they got on the board first with a ten-yard De’Veon Smith touchdown run, and then the roof caved in. Minnesota scored 30 straight points as Ryan Santoso hit three field goals, Mitch Leidner ran for a ten-yard score, and De’Vondre Campbell returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown. Michigan’s offense came up with just 171 yards and didn’t get back into the end zone until late on a three-yard Devin Gardner touchdown run.
What Else? Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner completed 14-of-22 passes for 167 yards and a score – the passing game worked after a lousy performance against San Jose State – and ran for a score
- Michigan QB Shane Morris completed 7-of-19 passes for 49 yards and a pick, and Devin Gardner completed 3-of-6 passes for 39 yards and ran five times for 23 yards and a touchdown
- Minnesota RB David Cobb ran 32 times for 183 yards and caught three passes for 50 yards
- Rushing yards: Minnesota 206 – Michigan 83
Game Rating: C-
Sept. 20 Minnesota 24, San Jose State 7
And You Care Because … Minnesota bludgeoned San Jose State with its rushing attack in a game it never trailed. The Gophers outgained the Spartans on the ground, 380-68, controlling the clock and the scoreboard for all four quarters. San Jose State never got closer than 10-7 on a Blake Jurich to Tyler Winston touchdown pass with 40 seconds remaining in the first quarter. And the Spartans never scored again, struggling to get beyond midfield on the Minnesota defense.
What Else? For the second time this season, Gopher RB David Cobb ran for more than 200 yards, ripping off 207 yards and two scores on 34 carries. He also got help from QB Chris Streveler, who pitched in 161 yards and a touchdown on 18 rushes.
- Streveler completed one pass, and attempted seven, yet San Jose State could not stop the Minnesota ground game. The Spartans have talented individuals, like LB Vince Bughiar and DL Travis Raciti, but their tackling and ability to disengage from blocks needs a major upgrade.
- The Gopher D put on a terrific show, stifling the Spartans all game long. San Jose State couldn’t stop Minnesota at the point of attack, giving up nine tackles for loss and three sacks.
- Winston was San Jose State’s best offensive player in Minnesota. Along with the touchdown catch, he had nine grabs for 94 yards.
Sept. 13 at TCU 30, Minnesota 7
And You Care Because … TCU destroyed Minnesota scoring the first 30 points of the game, highlighted by brilliant catches from Josh Doctson, scoring from 13 and seven yards out. Jaden Oberkrom added three field goals from 46, 45 and 12 yards away, and B.J. Catalon barreled in from one-yard out. Minnesota turned the ball over five times and didn’t get on the board until the fourth quarter on a 12-yard Maxx Williams catch.
What Else? TCU QB Trevone Boykin completed 27-of-46 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns with a pick, and he ran 12 times for 92 yards.
- Minnesota star RB David Cobb was held to 41 yards on 15 carries. Mitch Leidner completed 12-of-26 passes for 151 yards and three picks, and ran nine times for four yards.
- The two teams combined to convert just five of 28 third down chances.
- TCU WR Josh Doctson caught six passes for 64 yards and two scores.
Game Rating: D+
Sept. 6 at Minnesota 35, Middle Tennessee 24
And You Care Because … Minnesota jumped out to a 28-0 first half lead on short touchdown runs from Donnell Kirkwood and David Cobb, a 27-yard Maxx Williams scoring grab, and a pick six from Jalen Myrick, but Middle Tennessee made it interesting with a 17-pount third quarter helped by Reggie Whatley touchdown runs from 44 and 12 yards out, but a 48-yard Cobb scoring dash put the game away.
What Else? Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner completed 5-of-11 passes for 67 yards and a score with a pick, and he ran five times for 32 yards, but he suffered a slight knee injury late in the game.
- David Cobb ran 29 times for 220 yards and two scores, but the Gophers had a hard time getting the ground game going in the second half to grind out the game – they didn’t put it away easily enough.
- Middle Tennessee’s offense perked up. Austin Grammer only completed 22-of-38 passes, but he threw for 255 yards with a score and three picks.
- Minnesota was outgained 445 yards to 351.
Game Rating: C
Aug. 28 at Minnesota 42, Eastern Illinois 20
And You Care Because … The Gophers had no problems taking control and coasting after a sluggish first half. Mitch Leidner ran for two touchdowns and threw another on the way to a 35-0 lead before EIU finally got on the board late in the fourth. Berkley Edward ran for second half scores from one and 42 yards out to make it 42-7, but EIU closed out with a flurry on two Andrew Manley touchdown passes in the final 28 seconds.
What Else? Can Mitch Leidner throw and can the passing game work? The answer was, sort of. There were chances there that Leidner missed on, but he completed 9-of-17 passes for 144 yards and a score while running for two touchdowns. The receivers helped a bit, but they were hardly explosive.
- The Gopher ground game leaned on the EIU defensive front all game long. David Cobb ground out 71 yards on 14 carries, while Berkley Edwards took over late with 60 yards and two scores on four carries.
- The defense didn’t allow EIU to go anywhere. LB Damien Wilson showed why this defense is going to be his with ten tackles and half a sack.
Game Rating: C-
Doing a great job of getting through the adversity and the health concerns surrounding head coach Jerry Kill, Minnesota is going full steam ahead.
Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys did one of the best coaching jobs in the country last season, stepping in for Kill, who took a leave of absence as he tried to get his epilepsy under control, but this is still Kill’s team and this is Kill’s program. He turned Southern Illinois into a winner in his third season, he took Northern Illinois to the MAC title game in his third season at the helm, and last year, in his third year, Minnesota came up with its first winning season since 2008.
But this is really Kill’s third full season overall in Minneapolis, with Claeys handling things during the toughest part of the campaign, and now the program appears to be in the right spot with the right parts and the right attitude.
The Gophers’ 4-0 start was quickly wiped away with Big Ten losses to Iowa and Michigan. Both were ugly, both saw the offense go nowhere, and both failed to provide any real hope that things were about to change. Claeys was thrown into the fire in a key game at Northwestern, and everyone responded.
No one would’ve said boo if the season went into the tank, but instead, Minnesota won four straight games, got to eight wins for the first time since going 10-3 in 2003, and turned out to take the step forward everyone was looking for.
They started to play as if they had nothing to lose. Northwestern badly outplayed them, but key plays, takeaways, and capitalizing on breaks led the way to the win – they found a way to get it done.
A shockingly dominant win over Nebraska the next week was the really, really big victory Minnesota had been looking for since Kill took over, and it showed that yeah, the potential is there to be more than just an also-ran. This year’s team also has the potential to come up with the big performances on a regular basis. With so many good returning veterans, it’s time to build off of everything accomplished in 2012 and do even more.
At his previous stops, Kill won with a bruising, efficient running game and a defense that found its way into the backfield on a regular basis. Claeys will handle the defensive side, but the offense could quietly be a big-time threat with a terrific line paving the way for a deep group of backs and a quarterback in Mitch Leidner who appears ready to become a star.
They’re in the easier of the two new Big Ten divisions, but it’ll be tough to make too much of a dent with road games at Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska and getting Ohio State at home.
But this might be the type of team that can rise up and pull off a big upset or three just by doing what it does best.
If this group could adapt and thrive without its head coach, just wait and see what it might do now that he’s settled in.
What to watch for on offense: The short-to-midrange passing game to go along with the tough ground attack. The Gopher passing game wasn’t efficient, but when it came time to throw, it came up with its share of big moments, averaging 14.1 yards per catch, but Maxx Williams was the top target averaging 16.7 yards per catch as he tied for the team lead with 25 catches – he’s a fullback/tight end. Mitch Leidner isn’t Tom Brady when it comes to the deep ball, but he’s growing as a passer and he’ll utilize his H-backs and tight ends more for the safe, easy throws to balance out the offense a wee bit. It would be nice if a deep target would emerge, and it would be great if a wide receiver would turn into a playmaker, but as long as the chains keep moving, everything is fine.
What to watch for on defense: Can the defense get behind the line without Ra’Shede Hageman? The Atlanta Falcon might not have been an every down defender, and he might have disappeared at times, but when he was on, he changed games around by himself from his spot on the nose. Even when he wasn’t getting behind the line and blowing things up he was being keyed on, allowing the rest of the line to roam free. Can someone occupy the double teams inside? There isn’t the bulk to replace him, but the rest of the veteran front four has to become playmakers on its own. Theiren Cockran was one of the team’s most dynamic pass rushers into the backfield, and tackle Cameron Botticelli quietly had a fantastic year with Hageman taking up so much attention. The rotation up front has to be sound right away, and while there’s no replacing Hageman’s talent, the production has to be found somewhere.
The team will be far better if… the Gophers win the turnover margin. There’s little margin for error with the way Minnesota operates – this isn’t a team built to overcome big mistakes or comeback in the fourth quarter. 5-0 last season when they were on the right side of the turnover margin, the Gophers were able to overcome a rough day against Northwestern by being +3, and they were a +2 against Indiana. There were other reasons why they lost to Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin and Michigan State, but in those four games, the Gophers were a combined -6. Under Kill – at least since he took over as head coach – Minnesota is 12-1 when winning the turnover battle, only losing to Texas Tech in the 2012 Meineke Car Care Bowl.
The Schedule: The Gophers have to take advantage of all the home non-conference games, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to get by TCU on the road, to have any shot at a bowl game. Middle Tennessee and San Jose State are decent, and Eastern Illinois might be a bit of a fight in the opener, but starting out 3-1 before going to Michigan to start the Big Ten season is a must to have a realistic shot at a bowl game.
It’s a bad, bad scheduling break to play both Michigan and Ohio State from the East, but it helps that four of the next five games after the date in Ann Arbor are at home, with winnable games against Northwestern, Purdue and Iowa a part of the mix along with a road game at Illinois. And then comes the nightmare of a finish with Ohio State, at Nebraska and at Wisconsin – the Gophers had better have six wins banked before November.
Best offensive player: Senior RB David Cobb. It was supposed to be Donnell Kirkwood’s running game last season, but Cobb took over in the middle of the season and became the more effective, tougher back to carry the workload. Kirkwood is still a talent and still in the equation – he led the team in rushing in 2012 with 925 yards and six touchdowns – and rising star Berkley Edwards and quarterback Mitch Leidner will take on plenty of carries, but Cobb proved last season that he could handle the job by himself.
Best defensive player: Junior DE Theiren Cockran. Linebacker Damien Wilson might be the team’s leader, safety Cedric Thompson was the team’s top leading tackler, and tackle Cameron Botticelli could be the key cog for the line, but it’s Cockran who has to shine as the team’s top pass rusher. The secondary should be terrific, even without the star corner Brock Vereen, with Eric Murray a rising corner and Thompson a potential all-star, but the pass rush has to be better, and it has to be more dangerous despite the loss of Ra’Shede Hageman. Cockran came up with 7.5 of the team’s 18 sacks, and he needs to be even better from the outside without Hageman occupying the interior.
Key player to a successful season: Sophomore WR Drew Wolitarsky. Wisconsin might like to run the ball, but the offense goes from great to unstoppable when its passing game works and a Jared Abbrederis-like receiver is making things happen. Kansas State might have a great system that Minnesota all but mimics, but it’s helped by having a Tyler Lockett target who can rock and roll down the field. Minnesota needs its own dangerous playmaker to help make Mitch Leidner better, and that could be the 6-3, 208-pound Wolitarsky, who caught 15 passes for 259 yards and a score, highlighted by a four-catch, 94-yard, one touchdown day in the bowl loss to Syracuse. If he’s not the deep threat, someone else has to be.
The season will be a success if ... the Gophers win nine games, going one better than last year. Minnesota has to be at the point where it shouldn’t be a problem handling a Middle Tennessee, or a Northwestern at home, or an Illinois on the road. Those have to be givens if the program is going to keep progressing under Kill. It’s probably not going to be good enough to beat TCU on the road, or Ohio State at home, or Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin away from TCF Bank Stadium, but it has to be good enough to come up with at least one win in those games, maybe two, and not stumble against a Purdue or an Iowa. Winning eight games and a bowl isn’t going too far out on a limb, but it’s going to require a lot of luck and a few breaks.
Key game: Nov. 27 at Michigan. The 42-13 loss to a flaky Wolverine team that turned out to not be 42-13 good was the low point of last year on the field. Minnesota beat Michigan 23-20 in 2005, but through thick and thin, good times and bad, no matter what, the one constant is always that the Little Brown Jug stays in Ann Arbor. Before that 2005 shocker, the previous Gopher win came in 1986, in one of the season’s biggest national upsets. Before that, it was 1977, and before that, 1967. It’s the Big Ten opener this season, and with Northwestern, Purdue, at Illinois and Iowa to follow, if the Gophers can pull off the win, there’s a great chance to go on a fantastic run to start the conference campaign before hosting Ohio State.
2013 Fun Stats:
- First Quarter Scoring: 44 – Second Quarter Scoring: 122
- Time of Possession: Minnesota 32:53 – Opponents 27:07
- Fourth Down Conversions: Minnesota 14-of-20 (70%) – Opponents 13-of-22 (59%)
- 2014 Minnesota Preview -
What You Need To Know & Top Players