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CFN Take: Minnesota O Stuffed By Spartans
Minnesota Golden Gophers 2013 ...
Head Coach: Jerry Kill
at Michigan State 14, Minnesota 3
| 2013 Record: 8-4|
8/31 UNLV W 51-23
9/7 at New Mexico St W 44-21
9/14 Western Illinois W 29-12
9/21 San Jose St W 43-24
9/28 Iowa L 23-7
10/5 at Michigan L 42-13
10/12 OPEN DATE
10/19 at Northwestern W 20-17
10/26 Nebraska W
11/2 at Indiana W 42-39
11/9 Penn State W 24-10
11/16 OPEN DATE
11/23 Wisconsin L 20-7
11/30 at Michigan State L 14-3
Basically … Michigan State’s defense controlled the game forcing three Minnesota turnovers and only allowing a 21-yard Chris Hawthorne field goal in the second quarter. The Spartan offense got all the points it would need midway through the first quarter with a 15-yard Jeremy Langford run, and Josiah Price put the game away on a 12-yard touchdown catch in the third.
- Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford ran 21 times for 134 yards and a score.
- Minnesota RB Daniel Cobb ran 27 times for 101 yards
- Minnesota held the ball for 38:41, but turned it over three times and gained just 249 yards of total offense.
- Michigan State was 0-for-8 on third downs and missed on its only fourth down conversion try.
Wisconsin 20, at Minnesota 7
Basically … In the bitter cold, both teams had a hard time adjusting and holding on to the ball, but Wisconsin was able to use three takeaways to help barrel ahead on two Jack Russell first half field goals and a one-yard James White run. A two-yard touchdown catch from Jared Abbrederis provided the breathing room. Minnesota’s offense missed on several opportunities, and it was the defense that provided the score with a 39-yard pick six from Aaron Hill.
- Wisconsin RB James White ran 26 times for 125 yards and a score.
- Minnesota QB Philip Nelson completed 7-of-23 passes for 83 yards, and he ran nine times for eight yards.
- Minnesota finished with 185 yards of total offense.
- Wisconsin held the ball for over 35 minutes, but converted just four of 16 third down chances.
at Minnesota 24, Penn State 10
Basically … Minnesota got up 10-0 early on a one-yard David Cobb touchdown run and a 45-yard Chris Hawthorne field goal, and controlled the second quarter with Phillip Nelson running for a score and completing a 24-yard touchdown pass to Maxx Williams with 17 seconds to play. Neither team scored in the second half with Penn State getting stopped time and again on third downs and only getting in the end zone in the first half on a six-yard Zach Zwinak touchdown run.
- Penn State converted just one of nine third down chances. Minnesota converted nine of 17 tries. The Gophers converted all three of their fourth down tries, while Penn State converted just one of three chances.
- Minnesota QB Phillip Nelson completed 15-of-24 passes for 186 yards and a score, and he ran 12 times for 40 yards and a touchdown. David Cobb ran 27 times for 139 yards and a score.
- Penn State WR Allen Robinson led the team with seven catches, but they went for just 63 yards. Christian Hackenberg completed 14-of-25 passes for 163 yards.
- Penn State committed just nine penalty for ten yards. Penn State committed five penalties for 45 yards.
Minnesota 42 at Indiana 39, Nov. 2
Basically … Midway through the third quarter, Minnesota increased its cushion to 35-13 on a David Cobb touchdown run, but Indiana rallied for four straight touchdowns to regain the lead with 5:33 left. The Gophers, though, continued their magic under acting head coach Tracy Claeys when Philip Nelson found Maxx Williams from 50 yards out for the game-winner with 3:06 left on the clock.
- Nelson was the Gophers’ offensive hero, completing 16-of-23 passes for 298 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
- The IU comeback was fueled by a pair of 100-yard rushers, Tevin Coleman and Stephen Houston.
- WR Derrick Engel was Nelson’s favorite target, catching four balls for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
- The two teams combined for 1,069 total yards of offense.
at Minnesota 34, Nebraska 23
Basically … Minnesota overcame a 10-0 deficit with Philip Nelson stepping in for an ill Mitch Leidner and running for two one-yard scores – including the game-sealer with 48 seconds to play – and throwing a 33-yard scoring pass. That play to Derrick Engel in the second quarter gave the Gophers the lead for good in the second quarter. Nebraska’s offense was never in gear, even after taking an early lead with a two-yard Imani Cross run and the first of three Pat Smith field goals. The Huskers pulled within four in the second half on a three-yard Taylor Martinez pass to Sam Cotton and Smith’s third field goal, but 27-23 was as close as they got.
- Minnesota’s Tracy Claeys coached his tail off. Jerry Kill is still around, and he might have had his hand in some of this, but the Gophers were creative and inventive offensively. The Huskers were guessing too much, and it showed as Minnesota ran for 271 yards and had the ball for close to 36 minutes. The defense – helped by a terrific game from tackle Ra’Shede Hageman – held its own and attacked Taylor Martinez all game long.
- The Gophers are bowl eligible – in October? After looking like the season was starting to turn the other way once the real part of the schedule kicked in, wins over Northwestern and now Nebraska have changed everything. Are they good enough to beat Indiana and Michigan State on the road and/r Penn State and Wisconsin at home? They’re not going to beat all four teams, but they could certainly split if the defense continues to be aggressive and effective like it’s been the last few weeks.
Minnesota 20 … at Northwestern 17
Basically … James Manuel returned an interception for a touchdown and Chris Hawthorne hit two field goals as Minnesota stunned Northwestern. The Wildcats struggled with three turnovers, but Trevor Siemian was able to come up with a late ten-yard touchdown pass to Tony Jones – Minnesota recovered the onside kick. The Gopher offense got into the end zone in the second quarter on a 29-yard Derrick Engel touchdown run.
- Minnesota might not have been pretty, and the offense might not have rolled, but Philip Nelson completed 8-of-11 passes with a score, David Cobb and the running game was just effective enough to milk the clock and hold the ball for over 35 minutes, and there weren’t any turnovers.
- Northwestern doesn’t have it between the ears. There was talk of not having the energy against Wisconsin, and against an inferior Minnesota team the offense was lifeless. With no Venric Mark or Kain Colter, there’s no pop – the ground game ran for just 94 yards.
- And now Northwestern is in big trouble. At 4-3 with three Big Ten losses, the Legends title hopes are gone, and with road games at Iowa and Nebraska up next, and Michigan and Michigan State to follow, it could be really, really tough to find a few wins before closing out at Illinois.
- Minnesota might not be very good, and there might not be any pop to the passing game, but without its head coach and with everything going south over the last few weeks, it’s still 5-3 and one win away from going bowling. This might not have been a turning point game, but it’s going to turn out to be very, very important.
at Michigan 42, Minnesota 13
Basically … Fitzgerald Toussaint ran for two touchdowns and Devin Gardner threw two touchdown passes and ran for another as the Wolverines didn’t have too many problems pulling away from Minnesota. Michigan’s defense got into the act late on a 72-yard Blake Countess interception for a score in the final minutes. The Gophers could only manage two Chris Hawthorne field goals after tying it at seven on a seven-yard touchdown catch from Maxx Williams.
- Michigan basically solved the Devin Gardner turnover problem by not letting him throw for a while. Once the running game settled in, he was terrific, completing 13-of-17 passes for 235 yards and a score. Michigan overall played a clean game with just two penalties and no turnovers.
- Minnesota turned to Mitch Leidner at quarterback instead of Philip Nelson, and while the overall results weren’t great, the offense showed far more spark than it did last week against Iowa. Leidner is more of a playmaker, but the rest of the offense didn’t provide much help.
- Gopher head coach Jerry Kill didn’t attend the game after suffering a seizure. All things considered, the team played well for a half, and then Michigan was just too strong on both sides of the line in the second half. The Wolverine defense settled in, and it was over.
- After the Connecticut and Akron fiascos, Michigan needed this. All of a sudden, 5-0 looks a little better, even if the big blowout came against Minnesota. As long as the Wolverines keep winning, the struggles of the last few weeks will be forgotten.
Iowa 23, at Minnesota 7
Basically … Iowa got a Jake Rudock four-yard touchdown run and a 74-yard pass play to Damond Powell on the way to a 20-0 lead. Mike Meyer hit three field goals including bombs from 49 and 46 yards out, with two of his made kicks coming in the second half. Minnesota managed a 23-yard Derrick Engel touchdown catch late in the third quarter, but that was it.
- The Iowa defense came up with one of its most effective performances in years. Considering Minnesota runs first, runs often, holding the attack to just 30 yards was fantastic. Anthony Hitchens led the way with ten tackles, but the entire front seven whipped the Gopher O line.
- Minnesota didn’t even try Mitch Leidner, the star of the San Jose State game. Philip Nelson completed 12-of-24 passes for 135 yards with a score and two picks, and he was sacked four times. He didn’t move the offense a lick.
- The Hawkeyes played exactly like Kirk Ferentz wants them to be. They were physical, with Mark Weisman running for 147 yards on just 24 carries, and Jake Rudock was effective completing 15-of-25 passes for 218 yards with a score and a pick. He also showed off good speed in the open.
- Minnesota didn’t have a Plan B. Iowa had the ground game stuffed from the start, and there wasn’t anything happening through the air to make up for it. The Gophers didn’t play anything like they did over the first four games.
at Minnesota 43, San Jose State 24
Basically … Backup quarterback Mitch Leidner ran for four scores and Minnesota ran for 353 yards, but it was a fight for a half. San Jose State got two big plays from David Fales in the first half, connecting with Chandler Jones for scores of 76 and 32 yards out, and the two hooked up for a late 28-yard touchdown, but it was all gophers in the second half with 24 straight points on two one-yard runs from Leidner and another from David Cobb.
- While Philip Nelson is Minnesota’s most dangerous all-around quarterback option, but Mitch Leidner might be too good to keep off the field. With his excellent size and tremendous speed, he took off for big, big yards, running for 151 with four scores. David Cobb added 125 yards and two touchdowns on the ground; the Gopher offensive front was terrific. However, Leidner’s passing leaves way too much to be desired, completing 5-of-12 passes for 71 yards.
- Without top receiver Noel Grigsby to throw to, David Fales still had a decent day hitting 22-of-35 passes for 439 yards and three touchdowns. He bombed and bombed some more, throwing some beautiful balls and pressing down the field all game long, but he also gave up two picks. His biggest problem was the run defense – the Spartans couldn’t get off the field.
- Minnesota wants to go with the ground-and-pound, and it showed, hanging on to the ball for over 41 minutes. The Gophers were in several third-and-short situations.
- While it was hardly a plus to be on the field so much that he had so many opportunities, San Jose State tackling-machine linebacker Keith Smith did what he could, making 21 tackles. The problem was the lack of penetration. The Spartans didn’t to the plays before they could get started, and the Gophers runners had too much room to move.
at Minnesota 29, Western Illinois 12, Sept. 14
Basically … Minnesota overcame a 12-7 deficit with 22 unanswered points in the second half on two short scoring runs from David Cobb and a 37-yard Rodrick Williams scoring dash. Williams also started off the Gopher scoring on a one-yard run in the second. Unfortunately, the win was tempered by the scare of Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill suffering a seizure at halftime.
- The Kill scare changed the game, but Minnesota played well on the field when it had to in the second half. It took a little while to wake up, but the offense got the running game going with David Cobb running for 82 yards and two scores and quarterback Mitch Leidner stepping in to run for 64 yards.
- Starting quarterback Philip Nelson limped off the field after completing 3-of-4 passes for 19 yards, but Leidner was sharp, hitting 7-of-8 passes for 105 yards to go along with his work on the ground.
- As always, Ra’Shede Hageman was the star of the defense, tying for the team lead with six tackles with a sack, two tackles for loss and a blocked kick.
Minnesota 44, at New Mexico State 21, Sept. 7
Basically … Minnesota was in for a little bit of a fight in the first half after getting up 13-0 on a 14-yard David Cobb touchdown run. Marcus Jones took a punt 65 yards for a touchdown and Aaron Hill returned a fumble 50 yards for a score as the Gophers managed to keep coming up with the one big play needed when NMSU threatened. The Aggies got two one-yard touchdown runs from Germi Morrison and a one-yarder from Brandon Betancourt.
- For the second straight week, Minnesota wasn’t as good as the final score might indicate. The Gophers struggled at times to go on long, sustained drives, but they got the big plays from special teams and defense to blow the game open.
- It was a good effort game from New Mexico State. Germie Morrison and the running game was flattened, with the team gaining just 183 yards, but quarterbacks Andrew McDonald and King Davis II were effective, combining to complete 29-of-40 passes for 253 yards.
- Minnesota linebacker Aaron Hill came up with the really big play on a 50-yard fumble return for a score, but he also led the team with ten tackles. Once again, tackle RaShede Hageman was dominant. He only made three tackles, but he gummed up the works and made two tackles for loss.
- The Gopher running backs were far stronger than they were against UNLV. Rodrick Williams ran 16 times for 148 yards, while quarterback Philip Nelson took off for 122 yards on 15 carries.
at Minnesota 51, UNLV 23, Aug. 29
Basically … Minnesota came up with big play after big play to blow open a tight game. Marcus Jones started out the second half with a 98-yard kickoff return for a score, Martez Shabazz returned a blocked field goal 51 yards for a score, and Briean Boddy-Calhoun returned an interception 89 yards for a score as part of a 28-3 second half run.
- Don’t be fooled by the final score; Minnesota’s offense didn’t exactly rock. The Gophers were outgained 419 yards to 320.
- Again, don’t be fooled by the final score; UNLV played better overall. Once again, though, the little things became the big problem for the Rebels. The special teams were a disaster, and the mistakes were crushing. The team almost never capitalized on the moment.
- Tim Cornett ran well, coming up with 80 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, but Nick Sherry carried the UNLV offense with dink and dunks. However, he struggled to turn drives into points.
- Minnesota QB Philip Nelson completed just 10-of-22 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown with a pick, but he led the team with 83 rushing yards and two scores. The Gopher O line failed to generate any sort of a consistent push. Donnell Kirkwood couldn’t find any room to move before going out with an injury.
Why To Be Excited: The offense might have struggled to consistently put up points with more than 17 just twice over the final ten games, but there’s hope for a big improvement. Quarterback/wide receiver MarQueis Gray is off to the NFL, and fullback John Rabe is done. That’s it. The rest of the offense is back including all five starters on an offensive line that quietly came up with a terrific season. Quarterback Philip Nelson got his feet wet and should be ready to roll, and running back Donnell Kirkwood should take on a bigger role. But while the offense should be fantastic …
Why To Be Grouchy: The defense takes a hit. The O still has to find productive receivers and needs a boost in the passing game, but it should be okay in time. It was a good year for a defense that took huge steps forward, finishing 12th in the nation in pass defense and 33rd overall. The biggest losses are at linebacker with leaders and playmakers Mike Rallis and Keanon Cooper done, but not having end D.J. Wilhite and corners Michael Carter and Troy Stoudermire will hurt. JUCO transfers will try to boost the linebacking corps, but corner will be more of a problem.
What Needs Working On: The special teams have to improve. Minnesota will be better on both sides of the ball, but it won’t be good enough to overcome problems in close games if the third phase isn’t better. Kicker Jordan Wettstein was just okay, but now he’s gone meaning big Chris Hawthorne has to prove he can handle the work. The Big Ten’s worst punting game needs more out of Christian Eldred, and the return game has to replace kick returner Troy Stoudermire and punt returner Michael Carter after underwhelming seasons.
Non-Conference Games: UNLV, at New Mexico State, Western Illinois, San Jose State
Games Against The Leaders: at Indiana, Penn State, Wisconsin
Realistic Best Case Record: 8-4
Worst Case Record: 4-8
Likely Finish: 7-5
Pre-Preseason Projected Wins: UNLV, at New Mexico State, Western Illinois, San Jose State, Iowa, at Indiana, Penn State
Pre-Preseason Projected Losses: at Michigan, at Northwestern, Nebraska, Wisconsin, at Michigan State
Schedule Analysis: It’s Minnesota, so it’s not going to extend itself too much in non-conference play. Even so, UNLV was a tough out last year, but this time it’s in Minneapolis. Going to New Mexico State should be light and breezy and Western Illinois shouldn’t be a problem, but San Jose State will be a rough battle with its dangerous and efficient passing game.
Can the Gophers start out the Big Ten season with a bang beating Iowa in a rivalry game? They need to with road games at Michigan and Northwestern and a home date against Nebraska to follow. Beating Indiana on the road and getting by Penn State at home could be a must for a bowl game with Wisconsin and a road trip to Michigan State to close things out.
Team Concerns For 2013: The offense has to start working more efficiently and better. The ground game wasn't bad, but that was because MarQueis Gray took off when he saw time under center. The quarterback play has to be strong with Phillip Nelson needing to be more effective with an experienced but mediocre receiving corps. The defense has to replace both starting corners and has to come up with more plays behind the line despite the loss of end D.L. Wilhite. The punting game finished last in the Big Ten with Christian Eldred averaging 38 yards a kick and the team netting a mere 34.4 yards per boot - life outside the Dome is a problem for the kickers.
The 2013 Class Is Heavy On ... Receivers. This is when the Jerry Kill era is supposed to be hitting its stride when it comes to getting some good players to come in and take the program to another level, but that's not really happening with this class. Defensive end Owen Salzwedel needs to become a top pass rusher and offensive tackle Alex Mayes has to shine in a few years, but the key to the class will be at receiver with Drew Wolitarski out of California and De'Niro Laster out of Cleveland two big targets who could sneak their way into the rotation almost immediately.
2012 CFN Recruiting Ranking:
70. That Class Was Heavy On ... Jerry Kill likes the run the ball, but he’s not going after any star backs. He’s bringing in quarterbacks to be ready to provide options after MarQueis Gray is done after next year, and he’s loading up on receivers to start adding some more punch to the passing game. The secondary is getting an instant infusion of talent from the JUCO ranks with three signed on to make up for key losses while improving the depth.
2011 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 68. That Class Was Heavy On ... Offensive linemen. For new head coach Jerry Kill to do what he wants with his offense, he’ll need stronger, tougher offensive linemen than Minnesota has had in years. The hope will be for tackles Luke McAvoy and Foster Bush to
quickly grow into real, live bookends for the front five, while guard Kyls McAvoy and Tom Olson have the potential to be terrific with a few years in the weight room. Tight end Peter Westerhaus and receiver Quentin Gardener will soon be focal points of the passing game.
2010 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 74. That Class Was
Heavy On ... Offensive
linemen. Tim Brewster was hired as the head coach a
few years ago because he was thought to be a master
recruiter. He did a decent job this year, helped by
having a new stadium to sell, and he and his staff
went hard after offensive linemen to change things
around after struggling so much to generate a
running game. Jimmy Gjere is a tall, rangy tackle
prospect with room to add another 30 pounds, while
Mark Lenkiewicz and Matt Eggen will be plugged in
somewhere up front by 2012.
2009 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 47. That Class Was
Heavy On ... receivers. The Gophers needed to bring in more talented targets for the future, and they might have gotten their No. 2 receiver, alongside Eric Decker, in JUCO transfer Hayo Carpenter. Bryant Allen and Victor Keise come from out of state, Missouri and Florida, respectively, to develop. The real stars of the show might turn out to be tight ends Ra’shede Hageman and Kendall Gregory-MaGhee. Hageman is the total package.