I'll try to keep this short and sweet then we'll all move to rationalizing how we can upset Ohio State on Saturday. The review will be a mixed bag of reviewing the FAU game and the non-conference portion of the schedule as a whole.
After being perfect in the redzone on the season we had to settle for a FG on one drive and threw a pick on another. So in that regard this game was a failure for the offense. But here will be the new stat de juer you will be seeing. The Gopher defense has forced 13 turnovers. The offense has turned those 13 turnovers into nine touchdowns and one FG. Really only one of the thirtneed possessions acqured becuse of a turnover was stopped by the other team. One interception came at the very end of the Montanta State game where we kneeled for two plays following the pick. Another was an INT near the end of the half vs. FAU which resulted in two plays then halftime.
This offense is clicking and attacking. The defense is giving them opportunities and most importantly they are taking advantage of them.
Weber's first INT of the season was concerning and worth noting. His tunnel vision on Decker finally bit him as he threw into double coverage in the end zone for a red zone pick. (It looked like triple coverage but the LB in front was covering someone else in the flat and ran to Decker once the pass was in the air). This is a criticism that is valid. He has been fortunate that Decker is good enough to get open on nearly every play regardless of the coverage. So this criticism is two fold, Weber needs to find other receivers and other receivers need to get open for him as more and more attention is paid to Decker.
I was also encouraged that the ground game really dominated for the first time this year. The loss of Bennet was very scarry to me, but this was the first game of 200+ rushing yards and recognition should go to the offensive line as well as the freshmen running backs.
This was the first game in years that you could argue was won by the defense. Fewest points allowed since Temple in 2006! We took advantage of their mistakes and got them off the field on third down (3/14). Five pass breakups and four interceptions was another confidence booster for the secondary and linebackers. There is very little to complain about with the defense, and really very little to say other than outstanding job. Florida Atlantic is not USC, but they have a potent passing attack and we kept them out of rythm all day.
If you remember 2007 the Owls were able to run bubble screen after bubble screen and we couldn't seem to stop it. This year we were prepared for that as made adjustments to their adjustments to keep them off balance.
Top 5 Obersvations
1. Rusty Smith had a rough day in the Dome, but I was still impressed. He was able to look off our safeties and delivered the ball with accuracy. Were it not for a couple drops this game would have looked much closer and his numbers would have been better.
2. Our freshmen running backs are very encouraging. Eskridge is turning out to be a playmaker and very good catching the bal out of the backfield. Shady has also impressed, he hits his holes hard and runs with authority.
3. I watched some of the Ohio State game and Terrelle Pryor is going to make some mistakes. If our secondary stays disciplined and we can contain his legs we can take advantage of these mistakes.
4. I'm going to get into this more in another post but the middle of the Gopher defense is not getting nearly the credit it deserves. Lee Campbell at MLB has been much better than I ever imagined in the middle. He hits hard, is disciplined and always seems to be around the ball. But its been more than just Campbell, Garrett Brown and Barrett Moen have quietly had very good seasons at the DT spot. Neither have great stats but they have plugged the middle, applied some pressure and really helped out the defense as a whole.
5. Watching the game on TiVo, it was awesome to see the little montage of Decker's downfield pancake blocking. They showed three instances of #7 putting a DB on his back. Twice it was an explosive shot to this chest when the DB got off balance just a little and he ended up on his can. With each and every game he is more and more impressive.
Say what you want about the 2008 schedule. If this was a team with realistic Rose Bowl aspirations then you absolutely have a point. But this schedule was almost identical to 2007's and we went 1-3 in that stretch. I know these teams are not USC or Texas, but we aren't trying to prove we are the best in the country. Being 4-0 is significant and proof positive that this team is better.