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Gopher Football vs. Bowling Green review

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BOX SCORE
BTN Highlights

This was a bit of a surprise for all of us.  Bowling Green was favored to beat the Gophers and most of us were frightened that our defense was going to get shredded by Tyler Sheehan.  Best case scenario was going to be a tight game that we were fortunate to pull out.  After all Bowling Green was coming off a road win over a ranked BCS team.Bowling_green-2008_medium

A win isn't exactly surprising, I think we all knew the Gophers were capable of winning.  But dominating the second half and showing some killer instinct was something we have not seen from a Tim Brewster led team.

Despite being ecstatic about the win I can't help but think we are all back to school and enrolled in How to Lower Expectations and be Happy with Mediocrity 101 taught by Prof. Glen Mason. This was a nice win for the Gophers considering what we have watched over the previous 13 games.  But this was a MAC team that we should beat year in and year out.  It is still my hope to see more from this program.  Not in 2008, but down the road I hope this is not a game that we get giddy about.  I was tremendously pleased with the win but for those of us with aspirations of seeing the Gophers playing at another level this is part of the process but certainly not the destination. 

OFFENSE

There was a lot to be happy about on the offensive side of the ball and it all started with Adam Weber.  All summer we here hoping that he'd improve by reducing turnovers and increasing his completion percentage.  Well going 21/25 with zero interceptions is beyond what even I was hoping for.  There were a couple of ill advised passes but nobody is going be perfect and this was about as good of a game as we have seen from Weber. 

But it was more than just good numbers for Weber, it was his athletic ability to make big plays that made this a great game and not just a good one.  His huge third and nine pass to Kuznia in the fourth quarter was the play of the game.  Hats off to Kuznia for making a great sideline catch but Weber's ability to get a hold of the bad snap, avoid the rush and find Kuznia while throwing off balance was incredible.  The score at the time was 21-17 and five plays later we scored a touchdown to take a comfortable 28-17 lead and this was clearly the momentum play of the game. 

Weber was great, Decker was great, the run game was OK, but I have to say that the offensive line play leaves a lot to be desired yet.  There were guys in the backfield too often and Bennett did not have any real holes to run through.  I know this group is young and there is plenty of time for them to come together but if they don't get better they will really struggle in Big Ten play.  It is hard to call out individuals as grading linemen is difficult, but as a unit I'd really like to see them start creating some running lanes and dominating the line of scrimmage.

DEFENSE

First of all this was the fewest points allowed since the Gophers beat NDSU in 2006.  Further sign that this group is still getting better.  I really don't have any significant complaints about the defense.  They were aggressive, they hit, the forced turnovers and allowed only three plays of 15 yards or greater. 

They did very little to get pressure on the quarterback but in their defense they were often rushing three and Bowling Green was utilizing a quick three strep drop to get the ball out of Sheehan's hands. 

The 27 yard touchdown pass to Chris Wright is one we would like to have back.  It looked to me like we were on a zone defense.  As Wright caught the ball there were players to his right, left and someone in front of him but there was no safety over the top.  I never got a great look at the play but it looks like a breakdown in the coverage led to Wright being open and untouched to the endzone.

Outside of that big play the defense was solid and really dominated the second half forcing three fumbles and Tramaine Brock making an outstanding interception in one-on-one covereage down the sideline.

All in all this wasn't a perfect defensive game but nobody is expecting this unit to be one of the best in the country.  Create some turnovers, limit big plays and continue a decent third down coversion and the offense will have better opportunities to score.

Top 5 Observations

  1. JUCOs on defense continue to be huge upgrades.  Brock, Simmons and Lawrence combined for 22 tackles, 1 INT, 0.5 sacks and 2 pass breakups.  Brock was defensive player of the game in my opinion and Simmons was so very close to pick on the goal line in the first half.  These guys have helped a ton.
  2. Freshmen wide receivers?  I saw their names on the field but they have yet to contribute.  I can't tell you how excited I will be when I see a Brandon Green or Xavier Brandon touchdown.  I would guess that they'll see more snaps and some balls thrown their way this week at home versus Montana State.
  3. Before the season is over you will see a Troy Stoudermire kick off returned for a touchdown.
  4. I haven't yet mentioned the injuries to Bennett, Tow-Arnett (the center) and Net Tevale.  Rumors are swirling that Bennett may be lost for the season and that would be a major buzz kill.  When he has been given the ball in space he has really impressed, unfortunately there have been few holes for him in the run game.  It will be fun to see Shady get some reps but I'd feel much better heading into Big Ten play with #22 in the backfield. 
  5. Anyone else notice how well prepared the offense is heading into games?  One could argue their best two drives of the season were ther first ones in both games.  Well, the game winning drive vs.NIU is probably the best.  But the next two are probably their game opening drives.  Next growth step I'd like to see touchdowns or points on the first two drives but now I'm just getting greedy.  Nice job of game prep, play scripting and execution to start the season.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I don't want to get carried away.  While Bowling Green is good this loss didn't exactly spoil their march to sneaking into the BCS picture.  This was a good road test and another solid win.  This win really raises the bar and we shouldn't be satisfied with anything less than a  4-0 record heading into Ohio State.  Be pleased with the win, Gopher fans, but let's not be satisfied with two wins.

This was fun even for those among us may have been delusional for picking the Gophers win this road game.  I'm not going to start talking about how many wins we'll need to get bowl eligible cause that is still a long ways off and lets just get to four wins heading into conference games.  What I hope this does more than anything else is help to pick up some recruiting.  Last year Brewster sold kids on playing time, a new stadium and the promise that things are turning around.  Well the stadium is right around the corner and he has demonstrated that things are turning back in the right direction.  Now bring those kids in and get them committed.

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