It's almost been a week since the Minnesota Gopher Football team took the field against the TCU Horned Frogs and while its time to look forward to Colorado State, there still time for one last look back. That's right, its time for 3 Stars, 4 Quarters, 5 Thoughts.
On Friday when I first sat down to write this I had to step away; I was still to hyped up from the game and getting irritated at all of the Twitter hate directed against #7 Mitch Leidner (RS Jr. - QB). I'm glad I stepped away because I was getting ready to blast a lot of people but luckily others spoke up with more intelligence that I was going to bring to it. I will say just one thing on the matter; while Mitch may not have played well enough to make the Gophers win, he was not the cause of the loss.
Before I get started with the stars of the game, I thought I would share a highlight video made by someone outside of the Minnesota Athletics department. Here are the highlights from the Big Ten Network.
#31 Eric Murray (Sr. - DB)
Senior Eric Murray played very well in a game that he was targeted more often than he is used to; including being involved in both of the turnovers by the defense. I'm sure the many NFL scouts in attendance took notice.
#24 Rodney Smith (RS Fr. - RB)
I think its took early to declare this redshirt freshman the second coming of David Cobb, but how can I not give a star to a player who coach Jerry Kill said graded out perfectly? The Minnesota faithful certainly will be keeping an eye this Saturday on this young man.
#20 Julian Huff (Fr. - LB)
This was the hardest star to figure out but I'm going to give it to true freshman Julian Huff. Huff had 7 tackles in his first college game against the #2 team in the country. That's an outstanding performance for a player few would have predicted would have such an immediate impact at the beginning of fall camp.
Bonus Stars - The Fans
This was the best atmosphere I have ever seen at a Gopher game and the energy stayed high from pregame warmups to the final play. I give props to both Minnesota fans and TCU fans.
While the defense as a whole deserve props, I will give honorable mentions to #67 Brian Bobek (RS Sr. - OL) who has gone through a great deal to earn his starting position as well as #85 Jonah Pirsig (RS Jr. - OL) who was tasked to change sides by the coaches during the game.
Wow, people showed up early I were loud. Nice! I was so pumped up all week and I felt like I was going to burst!
Minnesota used a little hurry up to start the game but stalled out, going 26 yards in 8 plays. Still, football started and I was happy! TCU then went 55 yards but the Steven Richardson and Robert Ndondo-Lay sacked Boykin forcing a field goal. Great job! Mitch got blindsided leading to a sack/fumble that gave TCU a field of only 15 yards and an easy touchdown. MN Punt, TCU Punt, MN Punt. I'm still happy but a little worried.
TCU starts the second quarter with the ball on third down with 2 yards to go. They get the first down and get down to the Minnesota 12 yard line before Eric Murray hits Aaron Green hard forcing a fumble that was recovered by Antonio Johnson. Good start Gophers! MN punt, TCU punt. Minnesota has a great drive going 59 yards in 5 plays started off by a 36 yard pass from Mitch Leidner to KJ Maye (who may have deserved a star if not for some drops). The rest of the drive is Rodrick Williams Jr. who unfortunately fumbled into the back of the end zone for a TCU touch back. What could have been. TCU punts and then Minnesota goes 30 yards on 9 plays for a Ryan Santoso (who also could have been a star) gets on the board with a 42 yard field goal. TCU then drives 69 yards in 14 plays only to miss a 29 yard field goal after a sack by Theiren Cockran prevented a touchdown.
The half ends with the Gophers trailing 10-3. I was very happy with the defense and honestly felt fine with the offense. I liked the play calling.
They ran out of beer at my nearest beer stand. Others said that some stands ran out of any hot food. Food, bad, somewhat understandable as it was a late game and perhaps they didn't want things to spoil. Just kidding, not ok. But beer? Have enough beer on hand, if you don't sell it all, sell it next game. On the plus side, the Pride of Minnesota didn't have to pay a fine for their show like some other band (which I think was total BS, it was the Enterprise!).
Down only 10-3, this is great. TCU goes 76 yards in 9 plays for a touchdown. Honestly, this was the only drive were the defense let us down at all. How do the Gophers respond? 3 and out....face palm. But then Eric Murray gets an interception stopping what looked like another promising TCU drive. Minnesota then goes 77 yards on 12 plays for a touchdown.
Mitch was very good on this drive going 4-5 (if I recall correctly, Rodrick dropped a catchable ball) to 4 different receivers and ran 4 times (4, 5, 3, 0 yards). Rodney Smith ran 3 times; 15 yards, 8 yards, and 1 yard for the touchdown. TCU responded with a field goal. The quarter would end shortly after questionable (BS) pass interference call against KJ Maye. Minnesota trailing 20-10 and I'm still feeling pretty good.
The vast majority of fans are cool, but some go home....what? Due to that aforementioned OPI call, the Gophers start the 4th quarter on 3rd and 21 to go on their own 24. A pass to Maye goes incomplete and Peter Mortell (who might have had a star if not for one bad punt but had a great punt from our end zone) gives a strong 52 yard punt. The Minnesota defense hold again forcing a TCU punt (which I believe is when we learned that it is ok to hit our punt returner when he calls for a fair catch) followed by a Minnesota punt. TCU gets on the board again with a field goal and Minnesota turns it over on downs. Gutsy to go for it after a false start changed it to a 4th and 9 but Leidner's pass to Rashad Still was broken up. TCU punts and then VERY GOOD MITCH takes the field. Minnesota goes 91 yards in 8 plays for a touchdown to make this game interesting.
Mitch was 5-5 on this drive including 14 yards to Drew Wolitarsky (who had a decent game), 16 yards to Brandon Lingen, 5 & 10 yards to Still, and 22 yards to Maye for the touchdown. Mitch also ran for yards and Smith had runs of 12 and 6 yards. This is why you don't leave early casual fans. The onside kick by #38 Emmit Carpenter (RS Fr. - K) failed and while TCU went 3 and out and punted, TCU in the end won the game. Guess what....I was still feeling happy (despite only having one pregame beer).
Lots of people stayed so it took a lot of time to get out and back to the car. Twitter was making me mad with the Mitch hate. The end.
#1 - TCF was a Rocking
Great, great atmosphere. Can't say enough about the student section who showed up very early, was on their feet, and was loud. They chanted "Jerry" during pre-game warm ups and "we hate Iowa". What more can you ask.
#2 - Matt Limegrover & Offensive Play Calling
Really liked the play calling by Matt Limegrover and offensive tempo of this game. You can disagree.
#3 - Injuries
Why lord, why!?! Reading about #65 Josh Campion (RS Sr. - OL) being out of the game during warm ups did not make me happy. #78 Ben Lauer's (RS Jr. - OL) ongoing injury does not make me happy. Our top 2 tight ends (Duke Anyanwu and Lincoln Plsek) being hurt does not make me happy. My goodness folks, with these injuries how can you be hating on Mitch like this when he went against a good defense!?!
#4 - Breaks
Some go our way some don't. As a fan, especially at the game, yes we should yell at the ref during the game. Afterwards, we need to move on. TCU missing 2 wide open recivers was a good break. De'Vondre Campbell not intercepting that pass wasn't a bad break, it just wasn't a good break (but still was a good play).
#5 - Tracy Claeys & the Defense
Saved the best for last. This is a great defense. Can it improve? Yes, but this defense will keep us in game ans win us a few of those games. The DL got penetration. The linebackers played well as stand up ends. This was against the #2 team in the nation, the Heisman front runner, and a very, very senior heavy offensive line. Our backfield is great. This is a very athletic group. Be happy folks that we have Tracy Claeys.
Let me know in the comments who your stars were and what your thoughts are about the game now that we are 6 days out. Go Gophers & Ski-U-Mah!