I predicted (in my head) that the Gophers would win by 6 points, but what I really wanted was a thrashing by the Gophers. I may not have gotten that result but what I did get was a tough football game in which the Gophers came out on top. Sitting in seat 24, row 16, section 210 (right on the 50!) I had a good view and what I saw made me happy, confused, concerned, and....pulse pumping ecstatic! Its time for 3 Stars, 4 Quarters, 5 Thoughts!
Star 1 - #28 Jalen Myrick (DB - SO)
I have to admit, Jalen wasn't on my radar to get a star with only 1 solo tackle and one pass breakup. Then something kind of big happened. Myrick's 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown gave the Gophers the go-ahead score got my pulse pumping and the whole stadium on their feet. Could the Gophers have won without this play? Maybe, but I'm glad we didn't have to find out.
Star 2 - #7 Mitch Leidner (QB - RS SO)
He may have only thrown 4 official passes in the first half, 3/4 with the miss being a bad drop and another completion invalidated due to a penalty, but those 4 passes gave me confidence. Mitch would end up 10/15 (66%) with one interception and one sack. That one interception really didn't bother me for some reason I can't explain, I took it as a chance that was ok to take and the same as a punt. Others are free to disagree with that opinion. Other than the interception, I don't recall a single bad pass but I do recall a few dropped balls. Besides passing, Mitch had 31 yards (remember, sacks are counted as negative rushes) on 7 carries with a long of 22 and two touchdowns. This is the Mitch, nay - the Minnesota quarterback, that I've wanted to see for a long time. Great? Perhaps not, but more than good enough and worthy of a star.
Star 3 - #37 Peter Mortell (P, RS JR)
Northwestern's offense had more yard than the Gophers because they had too, due to the long field Peter "MOAR" Mortell gave them. Yes, he was help out by some good bounces but that is part of the game. He nearly had them pinned on the 2 yard line but the ball bounced off of a Gopher and into the endzone for a touchback. Mortell kicked for 224 yard on 5 attempts (44.8 yard average) with 3 within the 20 plus the touchback. NW only attempted one return and got stuffed for zero yards. Compare him to the Northwestern punter (200 yards, 6 attempts, 33 yard average, 1 within the 20) and tell me Mortell doesn't deserve a star.
These four players all had a good day and played an important part, heck and crucial part, but didn't rise to the level for me to give them a star: #14 Isaac Fruechte (WR - RS SR) #27 David Cobb (RB - SR), #88 Maxx Williams (TE - RS SO), and #5 Damien Wilson (LB - SR), Only one defensive player? That's a change.
A three and out to start but then the Gophers scored on their second drive. The wide outs killed our first drive with a drop pass and a penalty to negate a first down. Speaking of penalties, there was some dumb penalties in this quarter. Holding the opponent scoreless is always good.
What could have been if the Gophers had recovered that fumble! Northwestern scores on their first drive of this quarter (started in the last quarter) but the Gophers respond with a quick 2:51 75 yard touchdown drive. Good job at limiting Northwestern to a field goal to end the half, but this is partly on Northwestern's coaches. In an attempted not to let the Gophers get the ball back, Northwestern let most of the clock run out, but due to good stop by the Gophers they had to settle for a field goal. I think they should have trusted their defense more. Gophers go into halftime with the lead.
What's the Gopher's record in the Kill era when be tied or ahead at halftime? Something to ponder.
This quarter seemed to go really quick, I was actually surprised when it was over. Neither team scored thanks to a good job of the defense to stop Northwestern from getting any momentum from their interception.
Did something other than a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown happen in this quarter? I don't care. #18 Ryan Santoso (K - RS FR) did what he had to do by hitting an important field goal to put the Gopher's back up by a touchdown. Northwestern thought they were back in it to win it by scorring a touchdown that Myrick immediately nullified. Still, Northwestern had a chance to tie it up on the final Hail-Mary but #7 Damarius Travis (DB - JR) intercepted the ball and after a few steps wisely went down to his knees.
100-Yard Kickoff Return for a Touchdown via twitter.com/GopherFootball
I expected to be a big fan of the gold helmets, I was not. To me they kinda looked like hot dog stand mustard bottles. That said, when I got home and saw footage on TV/Internet, I thought they looked better. Might be good with maroon pants and white jerseys.
For much of the game our defensive backs looked confused. I felt this was especially true of Travis & #31 Eric Murray(DB - JR). Several times they didn't know who to line up against until the last second and there was some blown assignments. Between the Northwestern freshman running back and their tight 3 WR set, the Gophers looked to be on their heals I hope this gets fixed or other teams will exploit what they saw.
What was up with Santoso's kickoffs? They were supper high but not as long as we are used to. Of course, thanks to an error by the Northwestern returner, a freshman, one of those kicks was just about the best non-onside kickoff ever. Perhaps the coaches asked him to do that, but I doubt it.
Play calling, I liked it. Sometimes too much run-up-the-middle, but then a nice pass. They also took some chances, relatively safe chances, but chances all the same.
Northwestern was good but thankfully not good enough. Can you think of any real mistake they made of offense? On defense? On special tea.....never mind that last one. The Gophers got pressure on the Northwestern QB, but little came from it. I was so happy with the win and even more happy that it ended with an interception, I didn't want Northwestern to overtake us on turnover margin!
Kill is 22-22 at Minnesota (9-16 after first two seasons, 13-6 since). Last HC as good through 44 games was Murray Warmath who was 21-21-2.— Minnesota Football (@GopherFootball) October 12, 2014