Before I get to the Gophers and their poor play at nearly all positions and phases of the game, I would like to point out that apart from one quarter this was a relatively competitive game. But an anemic offense and a few big plays in the second quarter put the Gophers in a hole they were unable to recover from. We played OK, just OK, for three quarters and that might have been good enough to beat this average Iowa team. But Minnesota was awful for a full quarter and unfortunately that one counts as much as the other three.
The quarter began with an 8-yard touchdown by
Eddie George Mark Weisman. This one was technically in the 2nd quarter but Iowa did drive to the eight leading up to the game's first touchdown. The Gopher offense got the ball back and responded with a 3-and-out, which was followed by a 47-yard, six point strike for the Hawkeyes. And in just under two minutes the Gophers went from a three point deficit to a 17-0 hole. The Gopher offense got the ball again and this time managed four plays before having to punt. Iowa marched for another six points in six plays and it was 24-nill in a matter of minutes. After halftime, any thoughts of a Gopher comeback were ruined by turnovers.
The Gopher defense did not play well but the Gopher offense was worse. Third downs were cryptonite all game, turnovers either put the defense in compromising positions or were returned for points. The offensive line was pushed around by the Iowa front. The receivers dropped a couple passes and Max Shortell was pretty bad.
Much like how last season eventually played out, can we now end the conversations about Shortell possibly remaining the starter when Gray comes back from his injured ankle? Shortell's stats were not very good, his execution was not very good and his decision making skills were worse. He routinely under-threw his deep balls, often threw into double-coverage and held the ball far too long looking for the deep ball on seemingly every pass play that wasn't a designed short pass.
I think many have been enamored with Shortell because he "looks" like a quarterback. He is big, has a strong arm and is the look of a prototypical passing quarterback; Gray does not. When he was decisive and had time he delivered. But what Gray lacks in fluidity of mechanics he makes up for with dynamic play-making ability with both his legs and arm. Neither quarterback is perfect and both are going to make mistakes. But I like Shortell, a lot, as a backup. I love Gray as our starting quarterback who puts fear into opposing offensive coordinators.
This game was not all on Shortell's shoulders, he didn't get any help. He didn't lose the game for us, but he clearly showed that he doesn't really have the ability to raise our level of play and make up for deficiencies in other areas. Those other areas were pretty much all other position units.
We have been very excited about our defensive line this year, particularly the pressure they have applied o opposing quarterbacks. But today I think we learned that defending the run is a huge area of struggle for us. Iowa's
backup fullback feature back, Ron Dayne Mark Weisman, ran through massive holes en route to 177 yards and 1 touchdown. Again, this time on the other side of the ball, the Minnesota front was dominated by Iowa's.
The Gopher secondary has also been an area of relative strength this year but it was disappointing today. Only one big play really hurt them (and that was a flee-flicker), but if James Vandenberg had any sort of accuracy the passing yards would have been much, much higher.
So was there anything I liked today? I thought that Mike Rallis had his best game of the season. There were a number of plays he made in the second half to slow down
Archie Griffin Weisman. Derrick Wells played well again today as well breaking up a few passes and making a couple pass breakups.
Hats off to Iowa for taking Floyd back. I'm sure they were tired of hearing all week about how bad they are this year. They came out today, dominated both lines of scrimmage and made a few big plays to win by 18.
This might have been a loss that refocuses the Gophers. They were sloppy and lacked crispness. Execution was something we lacked all over the field. And now the Gophers have two weeks to watch this film. Two weeks for this one to be at the forefront of their minds. We were 4-0, but we are not nearly good enough to show up against anybody and win without playing well. This isn't a "wake-up call game" but it might be a "refocus" game. Get back to executing what we do and playing tougher in the trenches. The season will carry on, without Floyd.