The young Gophers got a decent early test when Fresno State came to town. The Gophers, particularly the defense, were in control for 3 quarters and held on to beat the Bulldogs.
The Monday Perspective (on Tuesday...of course) wants to look at the big picture following game 2 of the 2018 season.
The Immediate View
Just watching the Fresno game, with the knowledge of the New Mexico State win in mind, there are some reasons for season optimism along with reasons for concern.
- The passing game - Zack Annexstad, Rashod Bateman, Tyler Johnson and Chris Autman-Bell are all showing that there are some real weapons, more than just a capable aspect of the offense.
- The Defense - in the first seven quarters of the season, the only touchdowns allowed by the defense came on very short fields due to offensive turnovers.
- Offensive line - there was some real ugliness here, especially when it comes to run blocking.
- The running game - in addition to the blocking, losing Rodney Smith for the season is devastating.
Overall this team is a work in process, but it has been pretty encouraging thus far.
The Season View
This Gopher team is better than last year’s. That is the opinion of this writer and I think many within Gopher Nation would agree. I’m not suggesting this team is significantly better, but I think it is better. In this season’s race to get to bowl eligibility, the Fresno win was a big one.
Looking back at Bill Connelly’s Gopher preview, there were 5 games on the Minnesota schedule falling in the range of 45-55% win probability and nine games expected to finish within a 7-point margin. Last Saturday’s game was one of those games and it was won were were not necessarily projected to win. This moves us in the right direction towards gaining bowl eligibility.
Getting this team to 6 or 7 wins is really the goal for 2018.
I would caution us to not get too carried away. A nice Gopher win, in a week when Purdue, Nebraska and Northwestern all lost in various ways to make them appear weaker than anticipated. But the season is very, those teams may look/play very differently when we face them down the road.
For the season, this latest win was very big. We should all be rooting for Fresno when they face UCLA this coming weekend. But we still have a lot of work to do en route to six wins in 2018.
The Program View
There is just so much youth playing on the field. There are 16 freshmen or sophomores on the 2-deep, just on the offensive side of the ball. Now with Bryce Williams as your lead tailback, there are going to be 4 true freshmen who are starting (3 on offense, 1 on defense).
These wins, the amount of key minutes being played as guys are learning on the job...and so far succeeding...are huge.
I’m encouraged and excited. Even when we struggle, and we WILL struggle, be encouraged that this is all about building the program.
This is a patient build of the program. Being 2-0 is great, but not nearly as fantastic as getting to watch a young and talented team develop. This coming week does not figure to be a close game and this will be another development opportunity before we take things up a notch with a Big Ten road game.