I’m guessing a lot of experts watching last night’s game were surprised to see the Gophers come up just short against Ohio State. Nobody seemed to be giving Minnesota much of a chance against the #4 Buckeyes. And yet, the two teams played an exciting game for three and a half quarters. This is the kind of game that’s a lot of fun to watch- if you don’t particularly care who wins. If you’re a fan of either team, it’s a nail-biter. Here are my takeaways from the game:
I Love the Mental Make-up of This Team
The Gophers took the lead for the first time, having trailed 10-0, with 3:32 left before halftime. There were three lead changes in the third quarter before Ohio State took the lead for good. They extended it to ten points with a fumble return touchdown late in the quarter.
But even then, Minnesota wasn’t done! In the fourth quarter, a Gopher field goal brought them back within a touchdown. Unfortunately, the Buckeyes promptly added one of their own. Quarterback Tanner Morgan led the gritty Gophers on another scoring drive to bring them back to within seven, and the defense got a stop, but the Buckeyes recovered a fumble and went on to score again. (Note that the commentary team and officiating guru Mike Pereira thought there should have been a targeting call on the hit leading to the Mike Brown-Stephens fumble).
At no point did the Gophers look defeated, deflated, or as though they had given up. This is the #4 team in the country, a team that got to the National Championship a year ago (admittedly with a very different roster), and with 5:31 to go in the game, Minnesota still had a chance to win. Instead, the Gophers come up just short despite a gutsy performance.
Special Teams Have Improved Vastly
New kicker Matthew Trickett made all four of his PAT attempts, and nailed a 46-yard field goal. Aussie punter Mark Crawford punted three times and got two of them inside the ten-yard line. It’s a small sample size, but this is the best I’ve felt about Gopher special teams in awhile.
Dylan Wright is a Huge Addition
Transfer Dylan Wright from Texas A&M is a stud. He caught five passes for 57 yards and a touchdown against one of the country’s best defenses. At 6’3″, 215 he’s got a noticeable size advantage against DBs, but he’s also faster than you’d expect a guy that big to be. His arrival will help tremendously in the passing game, especially if Chris Autman-Bell continues dealing with his training-camp injury.
The biggest downer in the game was the injury to Mohamed Ibrahim, whose teammates apparently call him “Mo Money”. (Ask your parents, kids). Through three quarters, he had 30 carries for 136 yards and two touchdowns, passing Laurence Maroney for fourth on the career rushing TD list.
Ibrahim also got the ball on fourth-and-one in the second quarter, from the Minnesota 29. He ripped off a 56-yard run.
No word yet on his injury (he was in a walking boot on the sideline) or how long he might be out. I’d be very surprised to see him against Miami of Ohio next weekend- no reason for him to play that game at anything less than 100%.
Watching the Gophers come up just short against Ohio State was both frustrating and exciting. Frustrating because they were so close to pulling the upset, and exciting because they look like a very good team. So good, in fact, that 11 or 12 NFL teams had scouts at the game.