In Minnesota on Saturday afternoon, revenge was the dish Minnesota served early and often en route to a 37-3 laugher against Florida Atlantic, a team that hung with Michigan State last week and that beat Minnesota in OT last year.
And for the first time .... well .... maybe in many of our lifetimes, the defense, yes, that's right, the defense played a positive, even integral role in the outcome. On one series, Simoni Lawrence stormed around the edge for a sack and then jumped a lazy Rusty Smith pass for a pick and returned it for six.
“Coaches are always saying that we need to get into position in order to make big plays," Lawrence said. "I was able to get into position by reading the quarterback and I made the play. My heart was pumping and it felt so good to score a touchdown.”
Lawrence wasn't the only one in a ball-hawking mood. The same guy who scolded Minnesota's defense last year, threw four interceptions and went just 17-34 for 153 yards on Saturday. Coach Brewster was obviously pleased with the defensive effort
“Holding them to just three-for-14 on third downs was outstanding," Brewster said. "I give a lot of credit to [defensive coordinator] Ted Roof and the rest of our defensive staff. Our guys were enthusiastic from the very first play – they had a gleam in their eyes and a pep in their step. Just a great effort overall by our defense.”
Minnesota's offense meanwhile continued to play efficient, ball-control football. The Gophers ran the ball 40 times for 211 yards. DeLeon Eskridge averaged 4.1 yards per carry and scored twice. He also demonstrated the ability to be the pass catcher out of the backfield Duane Bennett had been.
Adam Weber did what we are getting used to see Adam Weber do. He went 19-24 for 235 yards. That's efficiency. His main targer as usual was Eric Decker who went 7-122 and a score. One area that does continue to worry me is the lack of other receiving optinos. Ben Kuznia caught three balls--including a great, toe-tip sideline grab. Jack Simmons caught two short passes. And we witnessed Brandon Green's first college catch. But, once Big Ten play arrives next week, Minnesota will be facing more capable defenses with better talent on the corners.
Weber's one interception came when the Gophers were in the redzone and he stared down Decker and threw into triple coverage. But that might have been the only obvious mistake the Gophers made Saturday, unless you want to get into second-guessing some third down calls.
What does this mean? Well, Minnesota is 4-0 as Big Ten play arrives. A trip to the 'Shoe awaits and the Gophers will play a still awful looking Buckeyes team. At this point, Minnesota fans should go into next week with a sense of confidence. And even if you're skeptical, a reasonable position given Minnesota's lack of a quality win, you have to admit that next week's tilt with OSU will be the most anticipated game in Brewster's tenure.
And don't think it's just this one partisan maroon and gold fan looking skeptically at Ohio State. Men of the Scarlet and Gray had this to say after OSU's yawn-inspiring win today against Troy: "This was not enjoyable football. This was like being forced to watch New Jersey Devils game from the mid to late 90’s over and over again."
Bring on the Buckeyes!