Minnesota Edged by Defending Champs 28-14, Unbeaten Iowa Up Next

It was the result most of us were probably expecting, but not necessarily the score. For the second week in a row, the Gophers hung in there against a ranked team in a game many were probably expecting to be a blowout. This isn’t the most skilled team in the Big Ten, but they’ve got heart and grit in spades.

Minnesota Edged by Defending Champs 28-14, Unbeaten Iowa Up Next

The Positive:

– Against a defense allowing an average of 163.9 passing yards per game, Mitch Leidner threw for 281 (27/44, two TDs, one INT). The coaching staff’s confidence in him has clearly increased in the last few weeks, and well it should have. The pass to Rashad Still to make the score 21-14 was a thing of beauty, and not a pass I’m sure Leidner would have made successfully a month ago.

– Early in the fourth quarter, needing a score to have any chance in the game, the Gophers went on a 77-yard, 10-play drive culminating in a touchdown catch by K.J. Maye.

– The defense played an excellent game. This was just the second time all season that the Buckeyes have been held to under 34 points. Cardale Jones was sacked multiple times, and the Ohio State offense didn’t hit the 200-yard mark on the ground or through the air.

The Negative:

– Minnesota’s run game was almost non-existent. Just 33 yards, and an average of 1.3 yards per carry.

– The kick and punt coverage left something to be desired.

– No interceptions for the defense this week, although they came close a couple of times. I’m more surprised than disappointed by that.

Up Next…

Things don’t get any easier for the Gophers, with unbeaten Iowa on tap. This could be another rough week for the running backs- the Hawkeyes are ranked ninth nationally in run defense, allowing just over 100 yards per game on the ground and only three rushing TDs all season. The pass defense is a little more susceptible, tied for 40th nationally and allowing 11 TDs. I expect the coaching staff to continue to let Leidner air it out, within reason. The Hawkeyes have picked off thirteen passes through nine games, so accuracy is going to be very important.

As for the Iowa offense, quarterback C.J. Beathard is dealing with a nagging groin injury and was clearly limited in his movement last weekend against Indiana. Beathard has 218 rushing yards and four rushing TDs this season, so his ability outside the pocket needs to be taken into account even if the injury has probably caused that to be a very limited part of the game plan. Leading rusher Jordan Canzeri is expected to return this week after being injured against Northwestern on October 17. Backup Akrum Wadley now has 426 yards and seven TDs, essentially all since Canzeri’s injury, so the Gophers will have to take both backs into account. That said, given the way Minnesota has played the last two weeks, I think it’s entirely possible that they hand the Hawkeyes their first loss.

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