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Takeaways From The Gophers’ 6-0 Start

Gophers 6-0

The last time Minnesota got off to this kind of start, Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber III were in the backfield. The Gophers are 6-0 for the first time in since 2003. Here’s what we’ve learned through six games:

  • Clutchness: not a problem. Minnesota has scored late, prevented scoring late, and won in OT.
  • The run game is in really good shape. Nebraska, in particular, had no answer for the Gophers’ three-headed monster out of the backfield, allowing 322 yards on the ground. Mohamed Ibrahim missed a couple of games, but with Shannon Brooks’ return, the team didn’t miss a beat. Rodney Smith (675 yards, four touchdowns), who missed last season due to injury, is right back to his 2017 form. So is Brooks, who has 215 yards and a touchdown in his two games since returning. Ibrahim returned to action against the Huskers with fifteen carries for 84 yards and a touchdown, so I guess it’s safe to say he’s healthy.
  • Other teams have finally gotten the message that you need to double-team Tyler Johnson- who still leads the team in receiving touchdowns, with five. Sophomore Rashod Bateman has continued to progress and gives the team another reliable option. He leads the team in receiving yards with 533, and should easily surpass his total of 704 from a year ago. Fellow sophomore Chris Autman-Bell is playing a much bigger role this year and has scored his first four career touchdowns.
  • The offensive line has looked better of late. Tanner Morgan is getting more time in the pocket and is making better decisions and more accurate throws as a result. At the same time, the team is throwing the ball less. Morgan attempted a season-low 13 passes against Nebraska, with a season-high of 31 against Georgia Southern in week three. Presumably this trend will continue as the Midwest weather continues to deteriorate; as of last night the Gophers have already played in wet slushy snow.
  • The defense hasn’t missed Blake Cashman and the Huff twins as much as I expected. Seniors Kamal Martin and Thomas Barber have played very well at linebacker. The team ranks 22nd in total defense at the halfway point, allowing 311.8 yards of offense per game.
  • Another defender playing a big role this season, and playing it well, is CB Benjamin St-Juste. The Pioneer-Press had an interesting article about the Montreal-born transfer student on Thursday.
  • Antoine Winfield Jr. is going to make some NFL team very happy on draft day, and I’d love for it to be my Giants.
  • The one negative regarding the defense is the red zone. The Gophers are in a three-way tie with Kansas State and FIU for last place in red zone D. Opponents have, believe it or not, a 100% success rate against Minnesota when getting past the 20. That needs to change, and quickly.

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Gophers 6-0. I personally predicted a 5-1 start. They’re currently tied with nemesis Wisconsin atop the Big Ten West. It’s a long shot- Minnesota still faces Penn State and Iowa- but might the Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe also be the battle for the division title?

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