So remember the days of power football? When we were grinding teams out by running against them off-tackle, power, jet sweep, and just about every other kind of running play known to the college football world? We'd punch teams in the mouth like Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State, and others. Ahhh, those were the days, weren't they. Well, guess what? THEY'RE BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Against Purdue, Minnesota ran the ball 48 times with 7 different players in a variety of formations and styles. They averaged 6.8 yards per rush. They had short move-the-chain runs. They had jet sweeps. They had Shannon Brooks drinkin' fools' milkshakes like Daniel Plainview.
Jerry Kill stated during game week that they had strayed away from who they were offensively. They were passing the ball too many times and had faltered from the run heavy offensive identity that had led to two consecutive 8 win season. Well, it would appear that a combination of Tyler Moore's first start at center and Shannon Brooks eating planets lit a fire under the offensive line and sparked a running explosion.
Certainly, we'd be remiss to not mention that this renaissance was against Purdue, a team that doesn't actually exist. But this aforementioned non-existent team just played Michigan State to a 3-point game in East Lansing. So, hold on a minute while I do the calculations....
Carry the 1, plus 3, add a few more... SO WE'D BEAT THOSE SPARTANS BY 25 POINTS IN EAST LANSING!!!!!!!!! I know it's a bit of fuzzy math isn't it?
Ok, ok all joking aside, Purdue isn't a good team. Or even an average team. But, they have averaged 28.4 points per game outside their effort against a variety of defensive skill levels (as wide of a difference as Indiana State to Virginia Tech). And our defense still ranks in the top 15 in S&P+ defensive rating at 11th. This is without how many defensive players on the 2-deep? It's an honest question. I don't know anymore because the injuries have been so numerous I haven't been able to keep up with every new injury to the Gopher football team that comes up on my Twitter feed. #MASHUNIT #DEFENSEISSTILLHERE #MURRAYISANALLAMERICAN #WEFINALLYGOTTURNOVERS
So, we dominated a 1-5 non-existent team. What does this really mean? Well, first it means that even though it was against a vastly inferior opponent, we regained our offensive identity. The players know what a formula for offensive success looks like and they should build on this foundation. It means we have a freshman running back who looks like he wants to truck some fools and run for 70-yard touchdowns. It means we were able to get reps for our freshman QB IN A CONFERENCE GAME!!!!! (GASP!) It means if the offense is running as it should, Mitch Leidner is perfectly capable of making the throws he is called upon to make. It means our defense is still pretty dang elite even if half the guys are held together with duct tape and Popsicle sticks. As a team, they've had to be problems solvers when a solution seemed nearly impossible...
But most importantly of all, it means the collective Gopher Nation can take a chill pill. Stop talking about Jerry Kill's job security. Stop talking about "not being able to develop a quarterback," not because Mitch was brilliant but because we should all be exhausted by the topic by now (At least for one week, maybe?). Stop talking about going 3-9. Sure, you can worry about 4-8 but 3-9 is out the window of possibility now! Heck, if we can somehow win our third straight game against Nebraska this weekend, we get a bye week (AND KEEP A CHAIR!!!!, not sure which one is better at this point?) and heal up a little bit and prepare for the daunting end of the season with renewed confidence, some healthier 2-deeps and a new season outlook.
I've said all along in this weekly inane rambling that college football is weird and unpredictable. It is a complex system with so many moving variables that it is nearly impossible to accurately predict from week to week. But maybe all we needed to get back on the right track for the season was a bit of predictability. Hey guys, guess what? We're going to run the ball and we invite you to try and stop it. Mr. Brooks will see you now. Your prescription? A stiff arm to the face!
Teams aren't going to want to play us. The defense has been heroic despite being short-handed. The offense is going to be an irritant if the consistent power running that we saw against Purdue continues. Kill and company will probably have a few more tricks up their sleeve.
Running ever so briefly down the schedule, Nebraska appears to be going the wrong direction. Michigan looks like the bully on the block who hit his growth spurt way before anyone thought he would. Iowa appears to be quasi-legitimate. Ohio State gave up 28 points to a Maryland team who didn't really have a coach so we're not entirely sure what they really are at this point despite having the most talent in the country and being undefeated. Illinois appears to be a tougher out than we originally thought they would be. And Wisconsin seems to be missing just a beat or two since Cryst took the helm. So it's really still a hodge-podge of unknowns that are clouding the ability to predict the future results of the Big Ten.
Just think, beat Nebraska and make it to the bye week with a 5-2 record (2-1 in the conference). Rest up and prepare for what should be an absolutely insane atmosphere on Halloween night at the Bank with a Little Brown Jug on the line against what could be a top 10 Michigan team riding high off a victory over their in-state rival (IF they beat Michigan State).
For now, rest up young Gophers. Remember who you are from this game! Remember!
Run the ball. Get healthy. Continue that stingy defense. Watch the freshman on this team make important contributions. Who knows what could happen next?