Minnesota Football: Loss to NWestern... What we thought we knew, What we found out

After the MTSU, USD, and Northern Illinois games I took a look at what we thought we knew about the Gophers heading into those games, and what we found out during those games. We'll continue with a look at the Gophers fourth strait loss (fourth strait at home, no less) to Northwestern.

The good news is that at least the Gophers did a couple of things right-enough that we had a pretty entertaining game to watch. But the reality is that despite a close one on the scoreboard, the same problems that have plagued us all year long were still there against Northwestern. Thanks to the Wildcats giving us the ball back 3 times, things were close, but how confident are you that Northwestern wouldn't have continued to slice up our D on those drives?

What we thought we knew:

We knew that the Gophers wanted to commit to the run, but after having said the same thing last year, we weren't ready to believe it until we saw it.

What we found out:

Let's be honest, the NWestern rush defense is not good. The Gophers ran the ball 37 times (to 24 passes) for 165 yards against the Wildcats and DeLeon Eskridge was the workhorse with 22 carries for 119 yards. Eskridge still doesn't look explosive, but he was finding the holes and exploiting them for good yardage. What's going on with Bennett? The o-line did a nice job opening up some holes. The commitment to the run was there, and it was fairly successful.

What we thought we knew:

We thought we had a pretty talented defense, but we were a little nervous about how that talent was going to come together.

What we found out:

486 yards. That's how many yards NWestern amassed on the Gophers. NWestern only punted ONE TIME in the game. One. Time. The truth is that the only reason this game wasn't completely out of hand is because the defense managed 3 turnovers. We have no reason to believe that the Wildcats wouldn't have scored on those drives, so on those drives, at least, we can say they did their job. But that's about the only compliment for the D. They still have a long, long, LOOOONG, way to go.

I will say this, however: side to side, this defense is pretty good. They are fast. The problem is that they aren't physical enough to stop runs through the line, or get any kind of worthwhile pass rush.

What we thought we knew:

We thought Adam Weber would be more comfortable, and therefore more productive, in Jeff Horton's simplifed offensive scheme.

What we found out:

Adam Weber is not being asked to carry the load in this offense. Instead, his job is to manage the game, put the ball up to keep things balanced, and to sell the play-action pass. I don't know how anyone could say that Weber isn't doing his job. I said it on the podcast last week and I'll say it again, this offense is not built to compete in shootouts. The offense is built to score touchdowns on long, double-digit play, time-consuming drives behind one of the biggest offensive lines in the country.

When Adam Weber is put into a situation where the offense is dependent on his arm, the Gophers will not be successful... just like the final drive of the game against NWestern.

What we thought we knew:

We thought Duane Bennett would be back at full speed and be a much more complete back after a difficult 2009 in which he was still slowed by 2008's knee injury.

What we found out:

Here's what I said after the week 1 win over MSTU:

Sweet sassy-molassy Duane Bennett is BACK!!! Remember how excited we were about this guy in '08 before his injury in the Bowling Green game? Take that amount of excitement and multiply it by 5. Bennett looks quick, fast, shifty, confident, sure footed, and, maybe best of all, violent. The young man just refused to go down all night long. He was fighting for every inch that he possibly could. Now that he has his full capacities Bennett appears to be ready to take over the "feature back" duties and run over, around, and through defenders on his way to doing so.

Bennett is still running violently, and he still refuses to go down, but he doesn't appear to have his trademark speed and shiftiness. I'm not sure what it is, but he just appears to be slowed down. Perhaps the injury is still bothering him. Thankfully Eskridge was able to pick up the slack against a porous NWestern rush defense.

What we thought we knew:

We thought the Gophers had the size, talent and home field advantage to maybe finally put away an opponent, any opponent, under Tim Brewster's watch.

What we found out:

This was GN's tweet from the game on Saturday:

All year Brewster has preached FINISHING. Here is their opportunity.#Gophers up 21-20 as the 4th quarter starts

Well, we know how that turned out. I was extremely disappointed in the two-minute drill. I thought the play calling was poor, I thought there was too many times where Weber was looking to the sideline to get the play, and I thought it looked like the offense was just confused. My opinion: if the mantra of the team is to finish, the coaches didn't do their jobs either.

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