Saturday night's win 44-21 win over New Mexico State had some common themes to Minnesota's win over UNLV last week with one notable exception; the rushing attack finally got on track. Roderick Williams, David Cobb and Philip Nelson were the driving force on the ground while the defense and special teams each contributed to the scoring again as the Golden Gophers improved to 2-0 on the young season.
It was another slow start for the Gopher offense who went 3-and-out on their first possession and had to settle for field goals on their next 2. But eventually they found a rhythm on the ground and started to run over the New Mexico State defense. Roderick Williams Jr ran for 148, Philip Nelson with 122, and then David Cobb managed to rack up 56 yards on 9 carries; all three also found the end zone. This was the first time since 2011 that a Gopher team had two 100-yard rushers and as a team they finished with an impressive 8.0 yards per rushing attempt average.
The rushing game showed some dominance but it was the defense and special teams who did their job to super-charge the scoring once again. It was Marcus Jones in the 2nd quarter returning a punt 65 yards to paydirt giving the Gophers a 27-7 lead just before halftime. And Aaron Hill put the exclamation point on the game with a 50-yard fumble recovery to effectively end the ball game.
So how excited should we be about this win and the 2-0 start? It is kind of hard to answer that question as there are things to be excited about and areas to be concerned. The rushing game has been pretty good, the passing offense needs a lot of work. The defense has been decent with a few key breakdowns but overall they have done well considering they have had more plays run against them than any other team in the Big Ten.
I have already heard about how many yards this team has given up to their creampuff opponents. As I'm sure Matt will point out in his deep dive later this week, this team has had a number of plays run against it. Five special teams and defensive touchdowns have given opponents five extra possessions. Again, there are things to improve upon and there have been a few key lapses, but this defense has been fine through 2 games.
Saturday night was a nice win and the Gophers should in no way be ashamed of the road win over a weak opponent. But this is also not exactly a win to brag about, we won't be seeing this one replayed on BTN as a Big Ten Classic for several reasons. We did what we needed to do and there are still things that need some work. Next week is another game to get better and work out the kinks before the schedule begins to get more challenging.
The theme of this early part of the season? Get better. Just get better and get ready for the Big Ten season. The program is winning the games they should be winning and they are doing it decisively. It hasn't been perfect and the wins maybe haven't been exactly as we expected but they were no-doubt wins. This is a step forward from the past few years and we are getting better. Keep getting better.