The Monday Perspective was having questions and thoughts about consistency even before the Nebraska game. How does one team look so bad at Maryland, look on and off against Iowa, appear solid against a good Ohio State team and then (as it turns out) look inept against a bad Nebraska team. And I think that is all comes down to a lack of consistency.
It is a major issue on both sides of the ball, but for every different reasons.
Offensively, this team is very young and very inexperienced. It’s been mentioned over and over and over but it is a fact. Your top two quarterbacks combined for exactly 0 snaps before the season began. At this point your two running backs are both freshmen. Two of your three receivers are freshmen. You have underclassmen starting in 3 of your offensive line spots.
Consistent execution is going to be a challenge for this unit, regardless of the plays called or the preparation during the week. They will look good at times, they will really struggle at others.
Defensively? It is an entirely different story. And this lack of consistency is largely to be blamed on coaching. On this side of the ball we have quite a few young men playing who are in their junior or senior seasons. The inconsistency here is that guys are not consistently doing their jobs. I had very similar thoughts but I’ll steal Derek Burns thoughts on this one...
IMO #Gophers struggles on def can be split into two main buckets:— Derek Burns (@Derek_S_Burns) October 22, 2018
1. They are playing cushion coverage in the secondary to help the safeties but they are giving up pitch & catch passes and getting blocked way down field in the run game.
2. They are fundementally unsound with their run fits. Losing contain, not reading blocking keys, and getting out of position which, in turn, leads to poor tackling.— Derek Burns (@Derek_S_Burns) October 22, 2018
Point 1, that is their chosen defensive scheme. Partly because of the injury to Antoine Winfield Jr, but they played last season without Winfield and there needs to be a better plan in place to deal with that loss. No more excuses like “if so-and-so maintains contain we stop...” At this point, this side of the ball should know the schemes and be able to execute their assignments.
Point 2 is the one that really bugs me. Defense is really about making your reads, trusting those reads, trusting that the other 10 guys are doing the same. When you play together, do exactly what you are supposed to do, then you can be a competent defense. Your eyes cannot simply follow the ball, you’ll be duped and get yourself dramatically out of position.
Somewhere along the way, the communication of this is not getting through to the players. I have seen Gopher defenses like this in the past. Defenses where too many on the field bite on the misdirection or fakes by the offense. That leads to being out of position which then makes it difficult to make a sound tackle. Even that incredible play by Winfield Jr. at the end of the Fresno State game...he bit hard on the play-action. He just also happened to be an incredible athlete who could make up for not trusting his read. This occurs far too frequently with this defense. Linebackers shoot the wrong gaps or take one misstep because of offensive misdirection and by that point they are too late to be in position to make a tackle. Defense ends don’t maintain contain and the secondary has too many communication breakdowns.
The numbers speak for themselves when you look at the number of points, yards and monster plays that this team has given up dating back to the last four games of 2017. It is ugly. And I believe that the talent is there to have a solid defense.
The offense is something that for now just requires patience. You can race to mahturity, but you can’t force it.
The defense? It is very concerning and I’m not sure that patience will help here. I’m just not sure that the current staff is one that will make any difference in the coming seasons.
For this team to start winning more games, like they plan to do at some point in the near future, there needs to be more consistency. Coach Fleck made a similar point about this at a press conference earlier in the season. By the time he was in his 4th year at Wester Michigan, he knew what he could expect from his team. He knew what they were capable of, he knew how they would react in certain situations and he knew that he could trust them.
Once this program gets to a level of maturity where they are consistently executing, then you will start to see different results. For now, we just aren’t sure what we will get from week to week, especially on offense.