The Gophers needed a dramatic fourth quarter drive in the final two minutes to regain the lead and hold off Ohio for a 24-27 win. Another game that was not pretty and very stressful for Gopher fans but this one flipped the script. Typically very strong play from the defense and special teams while the offense did barely enough to secure the win (or close loss to #2 TCU). But today, this was not the case. The offense exploded for 468 yards of total offense, 204 on the ground, Mitch Leidner was solid and they managed to score 27 points. But miscues by the return teams put the offense in more than a few big holes and the defense struggled to get off the field on third downs.
First we should talk about the offense, a unit that was dramatically more watchable than the previous couple weeks. The key to today's improvement came from the legs of two freshmen running backs. Redshirt freshman Rodney Smith and true freshman Shannon Brooks exchanged series and the two combined for 176 yards rushing. Smith had 16 carries for 94 yards while Brooks piled up 82 on just 10 carries and found the endzone twice. The improved ground game helped to open things up for the passing game. Mitch Leidner was 22/32 passing with 264 yards.
A much better showing by the offense overall with slight improvements all around. The offensive line was much better in both run and pass blocking. Leidner was accurate at 22/32 and the receivers did well in both the receiving end of things and blocking downfield. It wasn't perfect but it was much better. But what about the other phases of the game?
The defense had a coverage breakdown on Ohio's second possession resulting in a 39-yard touchdown to Papi White. On their first possession of the 2nd quarter they went 75 yards on 13 plays converting 3 out of 4 third downs, converting 1 for 1 on fourth down and giving up another touchdown. After that they settled down a little but the real story for the defense is their decimation due to injuries. Middle linebacker Cody Poock injured his rib and did not play in the second half, Brien Boddy-Calhoun did not play in the second half, Antonio Johnson bonks his head and does not return, a couple of the younger defensive backs went down and of course Damarius Travis did not even suit up due to injury.
Special teams? Typically very strong over the last few year but today this unit gave Ohio far too many opportunities and nearly was a difference maker today. It was not pretty.
- Ohio's first punt. Muffed by Craig James, recovered by Minnesota and a touchback. Very fortunate here.
- Ohio's second punt. Fumbled by Craig James, recovered by Antonio Shenault, Loss of 16 yards and starting on our own 13.
- Ohio's first punt of the 4th quarter. Fumbled by Craig James, recoverd by Ohio, returned to the Minnesota 12, unsportsmanlike penalty on the Gophers and Ohio actually gets the ball on the 6. Directly leads to the Bobcat's go-ahead touchdown.
- Ensuing kickoff is touched by Shannon Brooks as it sails out of bounds. Instead of Gopher's ball on the 35, it is Gopher's ball on our own 6. Drive goes 88 yards but stalls for a FG.
- With 30 seconds left and a 3-point lead, Ohio's Daz'mond Patterson returns the kickoff