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Minnesota Golden Gopher Football 2023 Postmortem

So that was a football season.

Fucking yay!
Photo by Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The football portion of the 2023 season for the Gophers ended on Boxing Day with PJ Fleck extracting revenge upon Bowling Green for one of the worst losses I have ever a Minnesota football team earn.

That sentence is the perfect summary of the failure that was 2023 Gopher Football. Even if you give the Gophers credit for having more postseason wins in Ford Field history than the Detroit Loins (3-2!), WHICH YOU SHOULD NOT DO, there simply aren’t many reasons to be anything past apathetic about the year.

The offense finished 12th in the B1G in yards per play and within a yard of Iowa in yards per play. QB Athan Kaliakmanis was saddled with expectations of being the guy to take the passing game to the next level and, other than one absolutely perfect pass to beat Nebraska, gave a Leidnerian performance and has now left college football to go to Rutgers.

Darius Taylor II looked to be one of the most promising true freshmen RB in a long time, but he was only able to appear in parts of 6 games due to injuries. The rest of the RB room included Transfer Sean Tyler (who can’t be blamed for fumbling, as he was frequently given a greased pig instead of a football), 37th Year SR Bryce Williams (who had a season-ending injury and will be back again this season), SO Zach Evans (who spent so much time coming in and out of PJ Fleck’s doghouse that he got confused and fell into the transfer portal), and Jordan Nubin. Nubin appeared in every game and squeezed every last drop of production out of his “5’10” 215lb” body. Heart of a lion, legs of a chicken.

It’s tough to determine how much of the offenses woes belong with the receiving corps, because between inconsistent play from Kaliakmanis and absurdly poor play calling from Greg Harbaugh (who may or may not have his hands tied by PJ Fleck looking for “complimentary football”), they did not perform well. The entire unit had 1,864 yards and 16 TDs, which is only 258 yards and 7 TDs more than Jaxon Smith-Njigba had for Ohio State in 2021. There probably could have been plenty more yards and TDs if TE Brevyn Spann-Ford wouldn’t have had that operation to replace his hands with frying pans like Nate Wozniak, but I’m not a part of the medical staff and didn’t really have any input on the decision.

The offensive line existed. They allowed the 4th fewest number of sacks in the conference, and they were middle of the pack in yards per play when rushing the ball. Grape job!

And then there was the defense. Hooboy, the defense. Dead last in the conference in yards per play. 10th in points per game. Bend a whole bunch and break from time to time isn’t how you want your defense to perform, even if your key guy at LB only plays 4 games. You want big plays? Well, since the offense didn’t get any (seriously. 2 plays of 40+ yards. Iowa had SIX!) Joe Rossi’s burn ward/defense gave up 27 plays of more than 30 yards and 8 of more than 50. That’s 2 plays a game going for about a 13 of the field in a schedule that includes Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, wisconsin, Northwestern, Purdue, Louisiana, and Eastern Michigan. Blessedly, Michigan State has decided to throw a ton of money at him to try to fix their problems. (Don’t talk to the guest speakers, Joe. They won’t pay you.) We were up 31-10 on justfuckingNorthwestern, and they carved up our defense for the entire 4th quarter.

Was it a complete failure? No. We finally stopped beating ourself against Iowa and Floyd is home. And the Broken Chair remains where it belongs, out of sight because both universities refuse to acknowledge it despite the massive charity efforts of the fans behind it because they can’t slap some bullshit sponsorship on it. But it’s still somewhere around here because Minnesota is a better program than Nebraska.

Other than that and taking my boy to his first few Gopher games*, let’s flush this season and move on. The last chance at a B1G title in the division set-up was an abysmal failure, and we only have so many more years left in life to watch the Gophers shoot themselves in the dick. Let’s give PJ some more bullets and get to work for 2024.

(*The boy’s mother already has tickets for us to attend THE GAME in Columbus this fall. I hope he enjoyed his 5 months of Gopher fandom.)