Welcome to 2014's initial Monday Perspective. For those of you newer to TDG, the Monday Perspective is a weak attempt to help all of us avoid the knee-jerk reactions, massive jumps to conclusions and most importantly to keep us from jumping off cliffs as we assume the worst is yet to come. Sometimes we, myself included, get really excited about early wins and try to convince our more pessimistic friends/co-workers how this team is legit. Other times we are quick to assuming that our pets heads are falling off rather than taking sage advice from Mike Tice and just enjoying the season. The point here is to try and keep us grounded, to see the big picture, to take the most recent game and see how it really fits into the larger picture of the season and the program.
This past win over Eastern Illinois brought two prevailing thoughts to my mind. First is the change in expectations for this program has moved from it not being good enough to win decisively, we need to win decisively and look good doing it. Secondly, after watching plenty of college football this weekend, you really need a quarterback for this program to take yet another step forward.
The change in perspective and expectations in Year 4 is fascinating. It wasn't very long ago that we would be thrilled with what was essentially a 42-7 win to open the season. I am guilty of finding the concerns and the negatives from Thursday's win. But Frothy Gopher, calm-cool-collected and the voice of reason he so often is, adequately takes care of today's Monday Perspective in one tweet...
If you're seriously going to bitch about today's game, then we have progressed miles and miles as a program.— Chris Swanson (@FrothyGopher) August 29, 2014
So I wasn't exactly bitching about Thursday's win, just voicing some concerns. But his point is valid, we essentially won the game 42-7 and instead of talking about a win and the big plays produced by the likes of Eric Murray, Berkley Edwards and Donovahn Jones; we are talking about the limitations of this offense and how that will translate to struggles in the Big Ten.
How about we enjoy the season? How about we give the coaching staff and players an opportunity to make adjustments and improve after what was just the first of 13 games. You may recall that we did see this team improve throughout the season last year, lets not assume we know the final chapter before reading the rest of the book.
But in spite of truly believing the sentiment expressed in the preceding paragraphs, it is pretty obvious just how important having a quarterback who can make plays for your team is in order to take steps towards major bowl games and national relevance.
This is not going to turn into an anti-Mitch post. I really admire Leidner's toughness and I think he is a very good leader on this Gopher offense. What he is not is a guy who is going to consistently make plays with his arm to transform this offense from a feared rushing attack to a very good and balanced offense. He is just a sophomore, it was just game one and he will improve. He is unquestionably our best option and he'll lead this offense all year making some plays and missing others. This part of the Perspective really has nothing to do with this season and any perceived limitations, it is much more about the long-term perspective and what it will take move this program forward.
A really good quarterback affords your team the opportunity to overcome mistakes more easily. A quarterback who can consistently make plays with his arm, converting third downs and locking down the 4th quarter allows your team to overcome penalties, turnovers and defensive lapses. A dynamic quarterback MAKES plays to give your team a boost.
What it really comes down to is recruiting THAT guy. Kill and staff have done a great job finding guys at most other positions who can be play-makers and difference makers on both sides of the ball. But they have yet to find their quarterback who is a difference maker, their quarterback that puts a little fear in Big Ten defensive coordinators. Recruiting that guy has to happen at some point if we want to see the Golden Gophers competing and beating some of the best around the country. Maybe that starts with 2016 East Ridge's 4-star QB, Seth Green and an experienced Leidner is who is the bridge to Green.
Mitch Leidner is our guy this year. There things he does really well, he is going to make plays with this legs and at times with his arm, he is the leader of this offense. It could be worse, we could have blown a 17-point 2nd half lead with our quarterback going 8/24, with 2 picks and throwing for just 50 yards. But that is kind of my point. In spite of a great rushing attack and a sound defense, it is tough to beat other top-20 caliber teams without good play from your quarterback.
And really, this team will be just fine (remember this isn't a "Bash Mitch" post). I saw nothing in game one to make me think this is going to be a disappointing season. We are not likely to be playing in Indianapolis after Thanksgiving, and I still expect to be playing a 13th game; fighting for as good a bowl game as we can get. This team will win it's share of games based on a great rushing attack and a very good defense. This should still be a really fun season. Lets enjoy it, right Mike?