It is a beautiful Monday morning in the Twin Cities. Sure the Gophers were beat up a little on Saturday, Adrian Peterson is in trouble and the Vikings were dominated on Sunday. But I tell you what, I don't feel terrible about the Gopher's loss to TCU.
Yes, I recognize that the score was 7-30 and the Gophers at no point were ever really in the game. But Saturday basically just confirmed what we already knew and now the season moves on. Let me give you a few points about Saturday's loss. None of these are going to make the season appear rosey and change anyone's perspective to how we are going to roll through the Big Ten season. But in spite of the loss, my expectations remain largely unchanged.
I'll lead with the fact that TCU was just better, particularly their defense. This isn't an excuse, it is just a fact. The TCU defense was as good or better than anticipated. They were physical and they were fast. The Gopher rushing attack wasn't completely shut down but every yard was earned. This defense made some key stops early and forced the Gophers into long third down after long third down. The first three Gopher possessions were three and outs (the last one being a Mitch Leidner interception on third down) and then we were quickly in a hole; which is never a good place to be when you are on the road and a team that is much better with a lead.
Now, not all of the credit belongs to the Horned Frog defense. We did our share of things to help them out. Early on I wasn't real pleased with our penchant to convert short-yardage situations with a shot-gun, zone-read play. TCU was just too fast to close up any perceived gaps in those situations. I would have much preferred to see us go with some power football in those situations to move the chains. But overall the TCU defense did what was needed to win the game for their team.
Another reason I didn't wake up on Sunday morning hanging my head too far was the fact that I thought our defense played well. How do you say that a defense who gave up 30 points and 427 yards of offense played well? Mostly because they were put in compromising positions all afternoon. All three TCU touchdowns came on rather short fields due to a big punt return and turnovers. The three touchdown drives were 18 yards (punt return), 27 yards (Leidner interception) and 39 yards (David Cobb fumble).
Outside of those difficult spots the defense forced two turnovers and held TCU to just 2-12 on third downs. A handful of big plays were given up but overall the defense played well against a talented and very fast TCU offense. Eric Murray played well, Damien Wilson played great I thought, Brien Boddy-Calhoun made a great pick and Jack Lynn was pretty active as well.
And really for the last 39 minutes of the game TCU only managed two field goals. I believe this defense played well enough for the Gophers to win, but they needed some help.
This is where things are not as rosey. I'm not all that disappointed in the Gopher rushing attack. It only had 99 yards total but when the team was put in a quick 0-10 hole that quickly became a 17 and 24 point hole, it is always going to be difficult for the rushing game to get running downhill.
The passing game was forced into action this week and this is was where things got ugly. Mitch Leidner needed to get the Gopher offense going and the team back into the game with his arm...this is not going to be a pretty situation for the Gophers. By the end of the game Leidner would finish 12/26 with three interceptions, a fumble and a QB rating of 6.2. (for record, Leidner will have to complete 62.5% of his passes through 150 attempts for JD to win the bet with me, his only hope is not hitting the 150 minimum attempt mark).
I've stated all along that I appreciate Leidner. He is a good leader, he is tough and for the most part he doesn't make really bad decisions (this week is changing that perception). But he is limited as a passer and that was painfully obvious in Fort Worth.
Yes the Gophers lost 7-30 and no matter what kind of kool-aid I try to drink can I find a way to see how we could have won this game. But with adequate quarterback play I feel like this was a 21-27 loss or something in that range. If the offense moves the ball just a little bit and reduces the turnovers a little bit; this is a closer game. Still a loss, but not embarrassing. Still a loss, but it changes nothing for the perception of the remaining 9 games. The problem is, we don't have adequate quarterback play. This is not a new revelation, we talked about it in week one.
I don't expect it to be "this" bad but I also don't expect to see games where we are all surprised by the pin-point accuracy and aerial display put on by Mitch Leidner. Now his health is in question and we may get to see the first start or two from Chris Streveler. I am not yet endorsing a permanent switch to the back-up, we cannot keep going on this carrousel of letting the young guy get experience EVERY YEAR. The book on Mitch Leidner is not yet complete, not even close.
But our strength is still our defense and our running game. Nothing I saw on Saturday tells me otherwise. TCU beat us on Saturday and there isn't any shame in that. Remember last year we struggled early and put things together down the stretch, maybe this loss speeds up that process in 2014. We move on to San Jose State and then the Big Ten, nothing I saw on Saturday leads me to believe we cannot compete with most of the teams remaining on our schedule.
The Monday Perspective things we are fine and no need to panic.