Gophers Football Makes Me Grouchy!

Posted: October 23, 2011 by Kodi in Gopher Redemption, NCAA

Surprisingly the Gophers didn’t get their asses kicked as bad as I thought

They allowed a lot of first half scoring but that shouldn’t come as a surprise

What I was surprised about is that TCF Bank Stadium didn’t let me in with my Oscar the Grouch costume!

The Minnesota Gophers welcomed the Nebraska Cornhusker football team to TCF Bank Stadium for the first game between the two since Sept. 22, 1990 when the Huskers walked away with a 56-0 victory. Since joining the Big Ten the Cornhuskers are playing in a division full of unknown foes but surprisingly the Gophers have played the Huskers the most. They have met 51 times, while the first game took place in 1900 and one might be caught off guard to find out that the Gophers lead the series with a 29-20-2 record but their last win came in 1960.

Minnesota was looking to get healthy during their bye week after getting absolutely dominated in their games against Purdue and Michigan. Head Coach Jerry Kill led short practices during this week and spent a lot of time recruiting, even he is looking forward to next year.

The Gophers have looked absolutely pathetic thus far but look even worse during the first half of their games. The Gophers have been outscored 181-41 in the first halves of games this year making it nearly impossible to be victorious right off the bat. The Gophers have one of the worst college football teams in all of D-1 but were facing a Nebraska team who was coming off of their only loss to Wisconsin. The Cornhuskers also had a bye week and had extra time to prepare for this match-up with Minnesota.

Minnesota got off to yet another incredibly slow start offensively and the game was out of reach before halftime. The Gophers defense stepped up big and stopped Nebraska from scoring on their opening drive the first time Minnesota has done this against an opponent since the Bison debacle. The Gophers defense then returned to their old selves. Nebraska shot out to a 34-0 lead and the Gophers couldn’t get anything going and QB MarQueis Gray was 2-8 with 9 yards passing. As a team the Gophers had just 94 offensive yards in 6 possessions with 4 punts, a turnover on downs and a one play drive at the end of the first half.

The Cornhuskers scored 2 Field Goals, 3 rushing TDs and had a fumble in their first 6 drives racking up 338 offensive yards. Nebraska had taken a 20-0 lead by the time Gray and the Gophers got the ball for their 4th offensive drive but on the first play from scrimmage the QB fumbled. It was inadvertently kicked by a Nebraska defender before being picked up by Austin Cassidy and returned for a TD. “That hurt us bad. It was bad communication between myself and the running back” Gray said “we had to just erase that out of our minds and come back the next series and do whatever we can do to move the ball down the field”.

The next drive was a 7 play series that went for 39 yards before Gray was tackled for an 8 yard loss on 4th and 1. The Cornhuskers got the ball at their 27 yard line and went 14 plays for 73 yards and they showed the Gophers what you want to happen on 4th and 1. Rex Burkhead took the carry from the 4 yard line and got the yard plus another 3 and scored the Huskers 3rd offensive TD.

The Gophers have been outscored by their opponents 137-17 in the last 10 quarters of playing going into halftime against the Huskers. Jerry Kill thought “the team responded well in the second half and fought back, which showed toughness” and maybe they were inspired by a explicit Kill halftime speech, one can only hope. 14 of the 17 Gophers points had come in the second half of their game against Purdue and clearly HC Kill and his staff are making some important halftime adjustments.

If you read that last sentence and didn’t laugh out loud you’re clearly a delusional Minnesota sports fan because realistically the Gophers only have a chance of scoring on their competitions second team. That is the only way they were able to score against Nebraska too. MarQueis Gray scored his 2nd rushing TD of the season after connecting with DaJon McKnight on a 53 yard flea flicker that got them to the 4 yard line.

Nebraska wasn’t going to let this game’s momentum shift towards the Gophers and their homecoming crowd and responded to Gray’s rushing TD with a 17 play 91 yard TD drive that took 6:06 and put Nebraska on top 41-7. The only scoring drive in the 4th quarter by either team was Duane Bennett’s 6 yard rushing TD with 1:41 left. The drive included another big reception by DaJon McKnight, a 24 yarder, and the Gophers scored each drive that McKnight pulled in a catch, albeit he had just 2 receptions all game.

Minnesota doesn’t have the talent on the offensive line to allow a flat footed QB like freshman Max Shortell to sit in the pocket. HC Kill and the Gophers are forced to use the fleet footed Gray because of his athletic ability but he has shown time and time again that he is inaccurate and unreliable in the passing game. The Gophers rank 109th in passing yards averaging just over 150 yards a game but the Gophers seem to be always trailing yet can’t get any passing yards.  McKnight may be one of the most talented players in Dinkytown but his abilities are being wasted and I can’t find any acceptable excuse for what’s going on..

He has just 27 catches for 393 yards and a single TD in the 2011 season but he had 10 TDs last season and Gopher Nation expected a better year for the senior. But McKnight has just 8 catches for 133 yards in the past 3 games. A formula without McKnight in the offense is a formula that will not win, even if Gray can’t connect on the deep ball this playmaker should be at least getting some bubble screens and quick slants to get him more involved.

The Gophers have now lost 15 games in a row to the Nebraska Cornhuskers and have been outscored 594-114 since this losing streak started in Lincoln, Nebraska on September 24, 1960. Nebraska ranks 7th in the nation in rushing yards, averaging over 260 yards per game and are led by QB Taylor Martinez and RB Rex Burkhead. They and others gouged the Gophers for 346 yards and 3 TDs on 56 attempts and averaged 6.2 yards per carry. Kenny Bell had just one rush attempt in the 2nd quarter but broke free for an 82 yard TD and his QB said “I think he is the fastest player in the NCAA” after the game.

Realistically this game could have and probably should have been a lot worse than it was but luckily for the Gophers and their fans Cornhuskers QB Taylor Martinez has accuracy issues of his own. Nebraska HC Bo Pelini agreed telling a reporter that they “had some repeat errors “. Polini struggled to explain his frustrations but continued saying “I’ll put it this way, we left a lot of big plays out there today”. Martinez was 13-22 with 162 yards and a passing TD but had some bad overthrows and miscues throughout the game.

The Gophers look defeated on defense before the players even hit the field and the offense shows flashes but would probably have more success during open mic night at a comedy club because their performance is often times comical.

Jerry Kill is a good ball coach but he’s going to have to prove his worth here in Minnesota before the fans turn on him. He keeps backing up the players he has but knows his future lies in the hands of recruiting and I couldn’t agree more. These kids have been given their shots and the team hasn’t stepped up as a whole. There are some individually talented players but to compete in the Big Ten you are going to need a team of those players, not two or three of them on each side of the ball.

Kill admitted that “right now I am doing less coaching and more mental support for our players than anything. It’s tough right now for the kids, but we are improving and everyone is working hard to get better. We just need to keep fighting through these tough times and everything will eventually get better”. Jerry Kill better be right because if this ship doesn’t begin to right itself we may just see a new captain aboard before 2013.


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