Throughout the majority of the game, I was wound up pretty tight. I was yelling at the TV a lot more than usual. I was actually contemplating punching a whole in the drywall at my folks' house. For some reason, I just had a little more emotion than usual. And as I tried to clear my head and start formulating thoughts for this post that I knew I had to have ready for Sunday, there was only one thing going through my mind over and over again:
There were numerous men who I thought wanted to watch the world burn during this game. Mitch Leidner. Jerry Kill. Matt Limegrover. To an extent, the Big Ten officials in charge of calling the game. They all seemed to want to create mass chaos and watch my sporting fandom world burn.
Look, Mitch isn't a great college quarterback. He may not even be a good college quarterback. But I have to believe that if he wasn't the best available option, he wouldn't be playing. The coaching staff obviously doesn't care about burning redshirts or worrying about seniority when it comes to the depth chart. I don't see why they would change their philosophy at the most important position on the field. So while he may be infuriating, he is what we have to work with. Or just replace all mentions of "time" in this upcoming clip with "quarterback."
However, I think I might have been most frustrated with some of the most predictable offensive play-calling of the Kill/Limegrover era. I'm not some brilliant football strategist but I predicted around 10 plays ahead of time at key moments throughout the game. I know Kill has established success at all of his stops by being consistent, patient, and "trusting the process" but this isn't the MAC or FCS anymore. And I have to believe that while we don't have the most talent in the world at the skills positions, we have enough to execute some different plays now and then, especially when the defense is expecting our RUTM. When the house presents you with a chance, you take it:
For better or worse, Matt Limegrover, and by extension, Jerry Kill, never try to take the house. It really frustrated me at times during the game. I'm not 100% sure why or if it was correct for me to feel this way, but this isn't some super logical X's and O's post.
Listen, I don't want to sugar coat what appeared to be an atrocious offensive effort. It was bad. A lot of drops, a lot of poor, poor throws by Leidner, plenty of "lack of a running lane" blocking efforts by the offensive line. Buuuuuuuut, at the same time, maybe we as a fanbase underrated the skill of Colorado State? Is that at all possible? They won 10 games last year. They return a decent chunk of talent on defense. Should we have scored more than 23 points and not had consistent difficulty running the ball? Absolutely. But at least we didn't have to go to overtime against an FCS team at home, right? Or get curb-stomped by a MAC team, right?
I'll admit there were several points during the game where I thought a loss was inevitable. I began to think to myself, "What does it mean for the rest of the season if we lose this game?" All I could think of is that it would hurt our bowl position come end-of-season. Two non-conference losses would have no effect on our standing in the Big Ten West or the status of our beloved Pig, Jug, Chair, and Axe. So I began to rationalize a loss in my mind as the world not ending.
Luckily, Mitch Leidner was given ample amounts of time to conjure up a comeback drive and the Gophers escaped with a 20-17 win.... is what I would have said if this game wasn't one of the stranger ones of the Jerry Kill era. Instead, a defense that had been relatively rock-solid all game allowed Colorado State to drive 55 yards in less than 20 seconds, aided by a laughable PI call, and tie the game. Overtime.
Well we all know what happened. We won with the help of Cody Poock, Rodney Smith, and Ryan Santoso. I have to assume Jerry Kill got the team on the plane out of Fort Collins as fast as humanly possible so as to make sure they couldn't find some way to take the game out of the win column after-the-fact (you know, kind of like assigning a penalty after the fact).
Speaking in a macrocosm, we're exactly where we thought the Gophers would be. 1-1 and heading into two tuneup games before starting conference play on the road it what is quickly becoming our second most difficult conference road game of the season against Northwestern. Delving into the details a little more, many in Gopher nation will be up late fretting at night thinking about the QB situation and the offense and Santoso's lack of consistency. These may be fair points of contention with the team's performance so far. We know that Coach Kill wasn't exactly impressed with his team's performance at half time in Fort Collins.
Can the defense continue to carry the team? Can the offensive line get health, gel, and prepare for conference season with two seemingly "easier" games coming up? Will Limegrover ever surprise me again or did he already use his one crazy play call of the season in the first game with a fleaflicker for a 35 yard gain?
One thing is for certain: the season's opening act isn't necessarily indicative of how the story for the 2015 Gophers will end.