5-1 feels really good doesn't it? I know that leading up the the Illinois game we'll hear that we haven't played anyone or beat anyone, but at this point I really don't care. The five games we won would have been losses a year ago. The fact is we are 5-1 losing only to Ohio State on the road. This team is more fun to watch and being only a game from being bowl eligible gives us something to look forward to the rest of the season.
What I Didn't Like...
Offensive line is the first thing that stands out. Weber was under pressure all afternoon. I personally saw two plays where Spry was wide open and Weber saw him but the pocket collapsed and he had to get away from the pressure. In addition to the lack of protection, we were unable to control the line of scrimmage in the running game. It took 44 carries to get to 109 yards. I realize these guys are young but we need to see some improvement here more than we need to see from any other position group on the team.
Thigpen's big play for a 77 yard touchdown. As I was watching at the Dome it looked like Hightower was covering Thigpen out of the backfield and was just out run. But after reviewing on TiVo I'm pretty sure it was zone coverage and the safety was jut out of position. While the defense was stout all afternoon, this was blown coverage leading to six. We've been better at not allowing this to happen but it was disappointing to see this afternoon. .
Not being able to find the endzone bothered me. Maybe I was spoiled through the first four games, but notching 22 first downs and only one touchdown is a bad ratio. We moved the ball very well but this game should not have been this close and it was within one score until the final 30 seconds.
Three fumbles. The Weber option pitch was really bad as it not only gave them the ball but they gained about 25 extra yards as the ball fumbled downfield. DeLeon was carrying the ball in the wrong hand and the muffed punt is just inexcusable. We lost two of the three and need to make sure this doesn't happen next week if we are going to play with the Illini.
What I Liked...
This list is much easier to come up with as there was a lot to like, especially about the defense.
First, the offense. We complain a lot about the fact that Weber only has eyes for Decker. But Decker was incredible today. If we know that a Gopher tendency is to throw to #7, you can be certain Big Ten defensive coordinators know it as well. The first play of the game Weber faked to Eskridge then pitched to Weber who was immediately met by two Hoosiers. This made it pretty clear they were keying on Decker, yet the rest of the game he was able to get open on a regular basis.
I liked just about everything from the defense. I'll handle this one player by player.
- Garrett Brown and Eric Small - both have pleasent surprises this year and today was no exception. They really stuffed the middle taking away any thoughts of rushing there.
- Willie VanDeSteeg - got pressure on Lewis and had his best game of 2008. Led the team in tackles and got two sacks. Very nice.
- Lee Campbell - a fumble recovery, a great intercpetion and six tackles.
- Marcus Sherels - The play he was injured on was fantastic coverage. One on one down the sideline and if anybody was going to catch that ball it was going to be #24 wearing maroon.
Tramaine Brock, Kyle Theret and Traye Simmons - none really stood out but it was obvious they were avoiding these guys whenever they could. Theret knocked down a pass on a great play where he broke on the ball from behind the receiver and knocked it down reaching around him.
The defense was fun to watch today and this was the best defensive effort we have seen in years. You can take away the 47 meaningless, hail-mary yards and 246 total yards given up looks very nice.
Bigger than the yards allowed was the points allowed. Indiana isn't going to finish near the top of the Big Ten but this is a high scoring offense. This is a team that has averaged 31.5 points per game over the last two seasons. And it took a 77 yard blown assignment to get any points on the Gophers this afternoon.
Two other stats that I was thrilled about. The defense allowed only 1 third down conversion out of 10 attempts. And we committed one penalty the entire game. Both of those stats greatly contributed to this solid performance by the defense.
I'll have a more comprehensive review early this week but these are my initial thoughts. What do you think? Likes? Dislikes?