Gopher Football vs. Northern Illinois review

So reviewing Saturday night's game on Wednesday is not what you should expect from TDG in the future.  I could give you excuses galore about why it wasn't done until now but that really doesn't matter.

Last night, through the magic of TiVo, I was finally able to watch the game.  I'm not in to giving grades, so I won't.  But below are my thoughts.

OFFENSE

To be honest I was expecting more.  The first drive of the game and the last drive of the game were outstanding.  They were crisp, confident and marched down the field for key touchdowns.  But the entire second quarter and second half (save two plays) were uninspiring.  I hope this isn't read the wrong way, I was not disappointed but I was expecting more. This offense did not strike me as one that would be able to move the ball agasint a good Big Ten defense. Jack_simmons_medium

Maybe I'm being harsh and had the Decker TD actually been declared a TD then maybe I view this differently.  But what I saw was Weber threading the needle a little too often and a running game that really never got going.  I fear some of those tight passes turn to INTs in the future and if we can't get some holes for Bennett his line is going to look more like 17 carries for 37 yards.

Also, I was very disappointed to not see any of the freshman WRs.  If they were not ready for a lowly MAC team at home, then I wouldn't expect to see them this week on the road agaisnt a MAC favorite. 

On the plus side.  I thought Bennett looked very good when give some holes.  He also was great catching out of the backfield and Brewster praised him for his pass blocking during his weekly press conference.  Bennett was a pleasant surprise.  Decker was also as good, if not better than anticipated.  Dunbar found many opportunities to get Decker the ball and he really is one of the best receivers in the conference.  And it was great to see the tight ends so involved throughout the game.

Overall it was a solid but not great performance by the offense.  Drive #1 and Drive to Win looked outstanding (maybe even tremendous).  In between they need to stay sharp.

DEFENSE

If I was slightly disappointed by the offense I was actually somewhat pleased with the defense.  This is not a good defense by any stretch but it was clearly better than 2007 and showed that they have some players who can make plays.  And this may surprise some of you but I'm not even that hard on Ryan Collado.  The 91 yard TD was ugly, but Collado was right on his man.  The coverage was there, the tackling was embarrassing.  My point is that a year ago the coverage was nowhere to be found and the tackling was awful, at least we were one for two. 

I thought that each unit did some decent things and as I've already said looked better than 2007.  Maybe my bar is set pretty low but wherever it was they reached my level of expectations through game 1.  Many guys individually are upgrades from last year.Niu-2008_medium

  • Lee Campbell - upgrade at MLB
  • Simoni Lawrence - upgrade wherever he is and I wish he'd see more snaps
  • Willie VanDeSteeg - much more active than 2007 version
  • All Defensive Tackles - bigger, stronger and more effective
  • Both corners - much better than a year ago and asked do more
  • Brock? - great but is he "better" than Barber?  at least it's not a downgrade

There were some hits, fewer missed tackles and the defensive backs were within five yards of receivers for much of the game.

Here is what I like the most.  We forced third downs and we got their offense off the field!  In 2007 we averaged 1.75 three and outs per game forcing 4.25 punts.  That was only 12.8% of the opponents drives ended in three plays and only 31% of their drives ended in a punt.  On Saturday we forced five three and outs (including two in the 4th quarter) and six punts (46%). 

This wasn't Ohio State we were playing but it was better and for this year that is all we are asking for.

Top 5 Observations

  1. Lee Campbell is disciplined and can hit.  He got the to the QB twice and always seemed near the football.  I was very skeptical of moving a DE to LB only 2 weeks before a game (was it one week?), but I love the move.  He is only going to get better with reps and he will be solid.
  2. Troy Stoudermire can move.  This kid has a little something special to him and I am really looking forward to seeing more of him returning and playing some defense.
  3. Marcus Sherels hits like a wide receiver.  He did a great job in coverage and this is another position move that appears to be a big success.  But the kid does not hit like the other guys who have been playing defense and initiating contact their whole careers.  This will certainly improve but just an observation.
  4. Adam Weber LOVES the spin move.  And for the record it might be the slowest spin move in all of college football.  I think he tried to spin move defenders three or four times and one in particular was painfullly slow.  He is big, he is athletic and runs our offense very well but time for a new move.
  5. In his post game interview with the BTN, Brewster did not use the word "tremendous."  Not once.  He must have been out recruiting and his brother was coaching.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

All in all this was a solid win.  You can critique that it was closer than it should have been and that this was a bad team we beat if you want.  But a year ago they lose this game.  Getting a win to start the year and winning a close game has to take a huge load off their shoulders.  They took control in the third quarter and pinned NIU deep at third and ten.  We need to better and we need to put teams away when we can, allowing a 91 yd touchdown is unacceptable.

To me they looked more prepared and more confident.  There are areas needed for improvement, but this was a good start.

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