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Minnesota Football vs Oregon State: The Elite, The Bad, and The Ugly

The offense was good. The defense was good. The Gophers might have even found their quarterback.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Oregon State Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Golden Gophers improved to 2-0 on the season with a dominant 48-14 road win over the Oregon State Beavers on Saturday. Despite a couple hiccups in the second quarter, the Gophers were able to impose their will against the Beavers, leading to a decisive victory that didn’t leave a lot to be desired.

Now we take a closer look!

The Elite

Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith. The offensive line improved from a lackluster performance against Buffalo in Week 1, but Brooks and Smith still found themselves having to make something out of nothing at times, often turning potential negative yardage plays into hard fought first down runs through sheer force of will. The duo combined for 183 rushing yards on 47 attempts with four touchdowns. Brooks and Smith put the nail in the Beavers’ coffin with a 15-play touchdown drive to start the fourth quarter that didn’t include a pass attempt.

The Gophers’ defense. For the second straight week, Minnesota allowed just three rushing yards in the second half and held their opponent scoreless after halftime. It was another impressive overall performance from defensive coordinator Robb Smith’s unit. Two games isn’t much of a sample size, but the Gophers are allowing an average of 10.5 points per game, 178 passing yards per game, and 65.5 rushing yards per game. It’s against admittedly mediocre competition, but the results have been as dominant as you’d expect. You’ve seen some growing pains in the young secondary, but the experience will only help them get better.

The Gopher defense also collected three sacks and forced three turnovers. The Beavers offense was 3-for-11 (27.2 percent) on third down.

Jonathan Celestin. If the Oregon State Beavers were able to sleep Saturday night, I can almost guarantee that the Gophers’ senior linebacker was haunting their dreams. Celestin led the defense with 10 tackles on the night and was an absolute menace for the opposing team. It was also mentioned during the broadcast that his mother was in attendance, which I only bring up because Celestin has dedicated this season to the memory of his late father, who died in a car accident back in the spring. I feel confident his father would be proud.

Conor Rhoda. It’s no secret I’ve been critical of Rhoda as far back as last season’s game against Maryland, and I’ve been expecting Demry Croft to grab the reins at quarterback this season. But Rhoda appeared to seize control of the offense against Oregon State, as Croft struggled in limited action in the second quarter and fumbled a snap that was recovered by the Beavers. Rhoda finished 7-of-8 for 158 yards, again connecting with sophomore wide receiver Tyler Johnson for a 67-yard touchdown strike to open up a 7-0 lead for Minnesota. He even had six rush attempts (albeit, for 14 yards) on the night as he showed a willingness to tuck the ball and run — something we didn’t see against Buffalo. As Fleck said in his postgame comments, Rhoda was in full command of the offense for most of the game.

I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Demry Croft quite yet, but I suspect that next week’s non-conference finale against Middle Tennessee State will be Rhoda’s opportunity to close the book on this quarterback competition.

Emmit Carpenter. The reigning Big Ten Kicker of the Year bounced back after a rough season opener. In addition to six PATs, Carpenter was 2-for-2 on field goal attempts, including a 49-yard field goal in the second quarter.

The Bad

Officiating. It became clear the Big Ten did not send their best and brightest to Corvallis when Oregon State wide receiver Jordan Villamin scooped a dropped pass off the ground, played it off as a catch, and the officiating crew took the bait, calling it a reception before replay revealed the obvious and the call was overturned. They were also inconsistent in determining what constitutes a targeting penalty — freshman receiver Demetrius Douglas took a helmet-to-helmet shot from safety Jalen Moore (that same Beaver who would later be ejected for targeting), yet no call — but none were called against Minnesota, so that is a a big check in the plus column.

Wide receivers not named Tyler Johnson. This is nitpicking a bit, because the Gophers only attempted eight passes the entire game, but it is a carryover concern from Week 1 that doesn’t seem to have been addressed in Week 2. Johnson had another outstanding game (4 receptions, 127 receiving yards, 1 touchdown), but only one other wide receiver recorded a reception. Better teams are going to key in on Johnson down the stretch and the Gophers will need the rest of the receiving corps to step up. Again, Minnesota didn’t need to air it out against Oregon State, so it wasn’t a dealbreaker on Saturday night, but I’m mildly concerned about it.

The Ugly

I got nothing. It was a dominant performance on the road against (what appears to be) a bad Power 5 opponent. If not for a fake punt pass on fourth down and a fumbled snap, the Beavers never would have even threatened the Gophers.