Last Saturday, on a beautiful fall afternoon, Minnesota took a 3-0 lead with 6:14 left in the 1st Quarter. At this point the game was over and Minnesota just needed to burn the remaining 53 minutes and changes off the clock while uncomfortably in control. Because Jerry Kill loves his fans so much, he decided to make it interesting by replacing the offense with a group of students. Or maybe it just looked that way because the Gopher offense was spectacularly inefficient. The recipe appeared to be to run and then occasionally stretch the field with a deep ball, but that was scrapped after Mitch Leidner threw a pair of interceptions that included a badly underthrown deep ball that should have been a touchdown. After that, the Gophers were content to run into the teeth of a 10-man box, make safe (BORING) passes, and punt on 4th down to bring the defense back out to choke the life out of the haplesser Kent State offense. Tracy Claeys' defense continues to be disgusting, giving up 2.4 yards per play on Saturday. Three of the longest plays for the Golden Flashes were a pair of 15 yard Personal Fouls and a Pass Interference against the Gopher defense. Other than that, RB Nick Holley's end-aroundish play out of the slot for 14 yards and a 19 yard pass to Charles Chandler in the 4th quarter were the only gains over 10 yards. The only reason Kent State fans could even have considered themselves in this game is because the Gopher offense was responsible for all 17 points. Gophers FR WR Rashad Still made a nice catch in open space in the flats, shook the 1st defender, and attempted to go through KSU DB Demetrius Monday. Unfortunately he forgot to take the ball with him, and Monday scooped it up and returned 80 yards for the TD. At this point the Minnesota offense somehow became even more conservative, and the game was just a matter of waiting for the clock to melt away because nobody was going to score without the other team's help.
Right now there are a number of things that are wrong with Minnesota: The OL is beat up and not very effective, Mitch Leidner is throwing a few really bad passes a game, and OC Matt Limegrover's playcalling is even more vanilla than we've ever seen. The Gopher offense is more conservative than Graham Filler's trip to Mackinac Island last weekend. But everyone needs to take a deep breath and remember the godawful stretch of Northwestern-Purdue-Illinois last year. The Gophers, fresh off the complete and total domination of Michigan, had three games of futility, missed chances, and what-if's. Northwestern outgained the Gophers by 120 yards, The defense decided to take the Purdue game off and see if the offense could pull one out, and the Illinois game was marred by 3 turnovers, a missed FG, and drives sputtering out. But after that trainwreck the offense decided that they'd play to their strengths, and was good enough to grind out wins with the defense. This year's schedule isn't as favorable as last year's, but it's not terrible in that there's not a team on the schedule before November that can't be beaten by the Gophers. All we have to do is make sure the Offense keeps the other team from scoring more points than the Defense gets us.
And that leads us to this Saturday. The Gophers welcome Ohio for Homecoming (don't ask me why Homecoming is the week after a home game against a MACrifice. I don't get it either) with a 2:30 kickoff. The Bobcats are a completely average team, ranking 62nd and 78th in Offensive and Defensive S&P at this point of the season, and have got a 3-0 record with wins over a terrible Idaho team, a ???? Marshall team, and D1-AA (I refuse to acknowledge the bullshit acronym "FCS" now and forever). They're 8th in the nation in turnover margin, which could be a big key for this game. But the thing that jumped out to me is that they're giving up 4.35 yards per carry, which is 79th in the country. And since everyone on earth knows that Minnesota is going to keep throwing rock (Good old rock, nothing beats that!) until we win or go to OT, that's going to be the key. How will Ohio's 10 defenders in the box match up against the Gophers OL that will certainly be out to prove that they're not as bad as Wisconsin's fat kids. I wouldn't be surprised if the Gophers fail to cover the spread, but this game will be easily won and most of it will be spent with the Gophers uncomfortably in control again.