August 30, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers wide receiver A.J. Barker (82) runs the ball against the defense of UNLV Rebels defensive back Kenneth Penny (17) during the first half at Sam Boyd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
I've gone through the normal progression of emotions following a tough Gopher win over UNLV on Thursday.
First there was a bit of anger: it shouldn't have been so hard.
Then the relief set in: a win is a win.
Next came concern: what if we struggle again like the past two years.
Then acceptance: it is what it is, it's early, it's going to work out, we'll be fine.
It took some help to get through these emotions. Sleep. Exercise. Booze. More college football.
But without question the thing that helped me settle down and get to a feeling of acceptance was watching and following the rest of the college football world on Saturday. A lot of really solid programs struggled against lesser competition, but most of them came out with a W on the other side. Week 1 is full of unknowns.
Specifically, just in the B1G, Northern Iowa put a scare into Wisconsin, Iowa probably should have lost to Northern Illinois, Indiana let Indiana State hang around, and Penn State started the post JoePa era by sputtering in the second half and losing to Ohio.
The point is, with no preseason, no live scrimmages, and the ever changing rosters due to recruiting and graduation, any expectations that we walk into a season with is pure speculation. Not only are we speculating about our own team, we're speculating about the team we're playing in Week 1.
Yes, UNLV has been bad that past two seasons, and so have the Gophers, but we don't know what either team will end up doing in the next 11 games. Thankfully, after one game, we at least have a little better idea.
Because even the coaches are essentially speculating heading into week 1 as well, the best part about week 1 being over for the Gophers is the fact that the coaches now have actual game tape with their current players and packages that they will be able to use to make adjustments.
After the jump I'll list out some areas that need adjustment and some of the bright spots.
- MarQueis Gray: I'm not sure how you combat adrenaline heading into a football game in front tens of thousands of people and cameras, but I'm hoping that the coaches can figure out a way to get MarQueis to settle down a bit early in the game. Everybody was unhappy with Q's overall performance, but he didn't back down from the challenge and in the end made the plays we needed to win in OT. But early in the game he was inaccurate and jumpy. He didn't look like the Senior leader her is supposed to be.
- Run Defense: Overall the DL played solid. It was fantastic to see them get pressure on a QB for a change and to actually come up with a couple of sacks. Against the pass game, the line played well. But I was a bit concerned about how easily UNLV got yards up the middle. I know that the OL was supposed to be one of the Rebels strengths, but that is NOT an experienced B1G offensive line. Everybody was getting pushed around. That's not good, especially because 10 of our 11 remaining opponents will have bigger more experienced offensive lines than UNLV.
- 3rd Down Conversions: Absolutely awful. The Gophers converted just 20% of the 3rd downs they faced. A lot of that had to do with Gray's inaccuracy, but overall the Gophers just did not get it done on the most important down in football.
- Punt Game: There are no words.
The good news is that there were a lot more positives than negatives to take away from this game.
- Run Game: It looks like we have two running backs that can get chunks of yards.
- Pass Rush: As mentioned, much better than recent years. Hageman looks like he's finally going to live up to the hype, and Wilhite is a great compliment to him.
- Offensive Line: The boys did a nice job protecting Q and opening holes for Kirkwood and Gillum.
- Defensive backfield: Wells was a beast, all by himself accumulating half of the interceptions that the Gophers got all of 2011.
- Brendan Beal: Finally getting to play his first collegiate football game, I thought Beal looked solid and in my opinion outplayed starter Mike Rallis.
- Wide Receivers: Everyone has been worried about this group, but there is some depth there that looks like it could become a strength. Even with the unfortunate injury of Jamel Harbison there are a lot of weapons and depth in this group. 8 different (non-RB) receivers had at least 1 catch, led by DCT with 4. AJ Barker? That's an exciting development. 3 catches for 101 yards. And KJ Maye? I can't wait to watch this guy for the next 4 years.
- Lauren Conrad: Can the BTN get her away from that awful CBS Sports Network?
Overall, outside of hoping for a blowout of UNLV, week 1 probably went about as well as could be expected. Your QB played poorly, but put up fantastic numbers. Your team was mistake prone, but stuck it out and found a way. One of your most exciting young players suffered a season-ending injury, but several other receivers emerged as potential weapons. You gave up two turnovers, but you came away with three of your own. You had 11 penalties, but you... yeah, nevermind, that's just bad and needs to be fixed.
Best of all is that we won the game. Second best of all is there's a coaching staff in place that now has game tape to help in preparation moving forward, and who we can rest assured already knows what adjustments need to be made.