The Minnesota Golden Gophers dropped to 0-3 in the Big Ten after a 30-27 defeat at the hands of the Michigan State Spartans. The Gophers have now lost three consecutive games and new head coach P.J. Fleck is searching for his first conference win at Minnesota. But thanks to three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, our staff is feeling a bit better than they might usually be after a Gopher loss.
What is your Tweet-length (140 characters or less) summary of the Gophers’ 30-27 loss to Michigan State?
gopherguy05: Imagine if we could just put together 60 minutes of our best football.
IowaGopher: I was miserable for three quarters. The fourth wasn’t so bad.
Ustreet: Backdoor cover.
dvits14: Believe in the process.
Welcome back, Demry Croft. Tell me what you saw from the quarterback in the fourth quarter. And has the sun already set on the Conor Rhoda era?
gopherguy05: He looked better than Rhoda. Now let’s see him do it again next week since consistency has always been his issue.
And yes, the Rhoda era is RIP unless Croft gets hurt.
IowaGopher: I saw a confident and comfortable quarterback who was able to keep his eyes downfield as the pocket collapsed and look beyond his first read. Oh, and I also saw three touchdown passes to Tyler Johnson. I wouldn’t mind if that continued. I was expecting Croft to see some action after he returned from suspension, but I certainly did not anticipate that he’d be seizing control of the starting spot in his first game back. If he is able to duplicate that kind of success next week against Illinois, I think it’ll be hard to deny him the majority of snaps under center moving forward.
Ustreet: A quarterback with a lot of potential who makes occasionally really bad decisions. Croft steps forward in the pocket, which is a welcome change. I doubt that this is the last we see of Rhoda because there are football-related reasons he won the starting job, but I imagine that Croft will see lots of action against Illinois.
dvits14: Um, about that, yeah. I didn’t get to see the fourth quarter due to technical difficulties. So just to pretend, I’ll say I saw a quarterback grow up before our eyes. Yes, the Conor Rhoda “era” has mercifully come to an end.
The Gopher defense is allowing an average of 200+ rushing yards per game in conference play. What seems to be the problem? Can it be fixed this season?
gopherguy05: I have no idea. If I did, I'd have Robb Smith's job. But Robb Smith better figure it out if he wants to have Robb Smith's job long-term.
IowaGopher: I have not been impressed with the defensive line against the run thus far, and the linebackers have struggled to shed their blocks. Against Michigan State, it seemed like L.J. Scott was at the second level in a matter of seconds. It was somewhat of a team effort, as the Gophers’ defensive backs also struggled in run support. The (eventual) return of Antoine Winfield, Jr. should help that, but I’m less optimistic about improvements in the defensive front. And don’t even get me started on the missed tackles.
Ustreet: Injuries and execution. The Gophers lost their best defensive player and importantly their best run defender when Winfield went out with an injury. On an execution basis, the team has not tackled well early in the season. The latter is fixable.
dvits14: With the amount of injuries in the defensive backfield and with Winfield being out indefinitely, I’m not sure the issue can be fixed this season. The loss of all of the defensive backs has changed the way Robb Smith wants to run his defense.
Which Gopher sophomore has the highest ceiling: Tyler Johnson, Antoine Winfield, Jr., or Carter Coughlin?
gopherguy05: I'll say Johnson. Seems like the NFL can always use good slot receivers. Winfield and Coughlin have high ceilings as well, but are in much tougher positions to make dramatic impacts.
IowaGopher: Tyler Johnson. I can’t wait to see how he continues to develop under Fleck and wide receivers coach Matt Simon.
Ustreet: Coughlin. His ceiling is Clay Matthews. He is highly unlikely to reach it.
dvits14: Dang you, IowaGopher, why do you do this to me?! I’m going to go with Winfield. I salivate at the thought of him as a senior. Johnson is a star in the making but he needs another receiver or two to start making plays to take some of the pressure off of him. Coughlin is flying around making plays out of position on the edge, but it’s hard to say exactly how he’ll do at LB without actually seeing him play there.
Will P.J. Fleck get his first Big Ten win this season?
gopherguy05: If it's not this week, then we are in deep, deep trouble.
IowaGopher: God, I hope so. Hello, Illinois!
Ustreet: Yes. This week.
dvits14: Famous last words from a Gopher fan but I’m going there anyway. He gets his first B1G victory this weekend against Illinois. That is an unloseable game.