Now that the Minnesota Golden Gophers have taken care of business against the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks, we’ve reached the end of the non-conference portion of the schedule.
How’s everybody feeling about their maroon and gold squad? Let’s find out.
What is your Tweet-length (
140 280 characters or less) summary of the Gophers’ 26-3 victory over Miami (Ohio)?
GopherNation: I love that this team is 3-0 and I feel like this team is very different than last year’s 3-0 team. Not elite, but this team is more confident and capable.
Things went as they should.
I find this very pleasing.
3 and 0, hooray!
It was nice to feel the team would get it done and then have them, in fact, get it done with minimal fuss.
gopherguy05: It went how it should have. You can’t say that about a lot of Gopher games, but this one actually happened like that.
IowaGopher: I’d much prefer it if the Gophers could win without Zack Annexstad being thrown around like a rag doll. I’m looking at you, offensive line.
Ustreet:The Gophers had no particular difficulties with a MAC conference opponent besides making sure their quarterback wasn’t hit on a regular basis.
mowe0018: Big Ten West tire fire + more talented Gophers = competitive conference games pending.
wildcat00: We’re 3-0!! Can the Wisconsin fans say that? Ha!
To borrow a Fleck-ism, who is your pick for “Nekton of the Week” from the game?
GopherNation: I really liked how Bryce Williams ran on Saturday. He was decisive with this cuts and ran confidently. Fleck was critical of him after the game as the freshman has a lot to learn. But I really liked how he ran.
GoAUpher: I'm a sucker for punts downed inside the 5. Jacob Herbers wins.
gopherguy05: I’ll take the obvious and say Tyler Johnson. He can change a game, and when he and Zack Annexstad are clicking, watch out. But Herbers gets a huge honorable mention for me. Hopefully that’s the version we see in the Big Ten.
IowaGopher: Tyler Johnson is the obvious answer here, yet I’ll follow GopherNation’s lead and give a well-deserved shoutout to Bryce Williams. I think 30+ carries was a bit much for a back-up with no true back-up, but I thought he showed promise, aside from the fumble.
Ustreet: Jacob Herbers. Prior to the game, Herbers had 11 punts for a little under 40 yards per punt. Only one of those punts was inside the 20. Since inside the 20 is in part a function of an offense stalling well before the opponent’s territory, it could reasonably be said that through the first two games Herbers wasn’t a weapon. My oh my was he on Saturday. Four punts inside the 20, three of which were inside the 10, and on all three he put the ball inside the five and let backspin do the work. Magnificent performance.
mowe0018: How about Carter Coughlin? For a team that is in desperate need of a pass rush, the junior captain continues to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks when the occasions seem extremely rare for the team as a whole. He had two sacks in this game and while we won’t see too many pass heavy offenses come conference play, someone has to be a difference-maker on 3rd and long and I think CC will be that play maker.
wildcat00: Jacob Herbers. Punting is winning.
Have the first three games — and a 3-0 record — changed your expectations for the rest of the season?
GopherNation: Not particularly. I expected this team would be in the six or seven win range. Beating Fresno State helps a lot to get them to that many wins. There are still a number of games that could go either way. I do believe that this 3-0 team is better prepared to win games in the Big Ten than last year’s 3-0 team. Seeing what happened around the Big Ten West yesterday is encouraging, but many of those teams will look very different in the coming weeks. I’m enjoying this team and feel good about it being a bowl team.
GoAUpher: Bowling now requires you to beat only three teams from a list of teams that looks weaker every game right now. It definitely changes my unreasonably optimistic best case scenario, but mostly I think it just protects this team against unfortunate losses or significant midseason improvements by future opponents that might have otherwise set up 5-7.
If this team avoids any frustrating losses though? Then the optimistic options get interesting.
gopherguy05: Yes and no. I still think we are looking at a 6-6 to 7-5 team, but with the exception of Ohio State and Wisconsin, the upheaval in the rest of the conference and our opponents has made a better season possible. I’ll wait until after we dispatch a Big Ten team on the road until I get too giddy, but if all the cards go our way, which is still a big if, 8-4 doesn’t seem too outlandish.
IowaGopher: Not really. I did not expect them to beat Fresno State, so that was a pleasant surprise. But I think I’m waiting until after the Maryland and Iowa games before I start venturing beyond (or retreating from) a place of cautious optimism.
Ustreet: None whatsoever, I pick them to go undefeated every year.
mowe0018: Expectations? No. I expected six wins. But that was me trying to be more realistic than in seasons past. I honestly expected the team to improve and compete. Record wise, the situation was always going to be fluid. The Big Ten West is just so mediocre, borderline terrible. And the crossovers, besides Ohio State, aren’t terrible. The schedule has a lot of opportunities to keep adding tallies in the win column. Injury luck and maturation of freshman players will dictate a lot for the rest of the season.
wildcat00: Not really. I fully expected that Minnesota would be 3-0 right now. What has been a bit of a surprise is that the Gophers have not struggled to win these games as much as I thought they would. There’s marked improvement in the offense—both in terms of personnel and play calling. If Minnesota can sustain the level of execution through the Big Ten part of the schedule, that might lead to a better record than expected. Or not.
Just like last season, the Gopher defense has been dominant in the non-conference. How confident are you that that continues?
GopherNation: I like this defense. It won’t be dominant in the Big Ten, but it will be competent and capable of keeping us in most games. That side of the ball has far more experienced players on it and it shows. There are upperclassmen that the coaching staff can rely upon to do their jobs and make plays. The defense isn’t perfect, but it’ll be fine.
GoAUpher: If healthy, I'm betting they can keep it up versus the weaker B1G opponents. I have doubts they excel against Ohio State or Wisconsin the same way.
gopherguy05: More so than a year ago, but not sold enough to go blocking out New Year’s on my schedule. If they can stay healthy, which was the major downfall a year ago, this team will stay in some games thanks to this defense. But once again, let’s see the level of opponent step up a bit before we start the ‘85 Bears comparisons.
IowaGopher: I want to believe, but I believed last season and I’m not about to be burned again. If they can redeem themselves against the Terps’ rushing attack after letting them run wild last season, I’ll start to feel more confident that this defense is for real. You have to be able to stop the run to win the Big Ten and they certainly couldn’t do that a year ago.
mowe0018: I think the Gophers’ defense would have held up pretty well if Antoine Winfield, Jr. wasn’t hurt in the Maryland game last year. I think this year is quite similar. If major injuries are avoided, I see the defense keeping us in all Big Ten games minus Ohio State and Wisconsin.
wildcat00: Health is obviously the #1 concern for the defense. If there are no major injuries, then I expect the defense will be solid and keep Minnesota in some games. But I also don’t think this defense is really built to stop high-octane offenses like Ohio State.
What aspect of the Gophers’ game are you most confident about as they open Big Ten play? What is your biggest concern?
GopherNation: Is it strange that the first thing that came to mind was the receivers? But as I thought more about it, the unit that gives me the most confidence are the linebackers. And offensive line concerns me very much. Jared Weyler made a comment that they need to do a better job of working together. So maybe the talent is there and they just need to get more cohesive. Or maybe it is going to be ugly all year. But it concerns me.
GoAUpher: More confident in the defense. MUCH less confident in the offensive line.
gopherguy05: I think the play of the front seven and Emmit Carpenter are what I feel the best about. If the Gophers can figure out their defensive tackle rotation and not get caught with their second unit out on critical plays, and their linebackers still play well, then I feel decent about that then helping the secondary too. Carp looks like 2016 Carp and not 2017 Carp, which also is a boon to Minnesota.
I’m still worried deeply about the offensive line. Sam Schlueter has been a major liability at right tackle and if Zack Annexstad keeps getting killed and can’t get that ankle back right, that’s not great.
IowaGopher: Believe it or not, I feel very good about the Gophers’ secondary. There is a lot of youth behind the starters, but especially like what we’ve seen from true freshman cornerback Terell Smith. I think he and Antoine Winfield, Jr. are going to anchor that defensive backfield for years to come. As for what I’m most concerned about, I’ll follow the broken record and harp on the offensive line. Pass protection must improve.
Ustreet: I’m most confident about the linebackers. I’m most concerned about Zack Annexstad being healthy the rest of the season.
mowe0018: Linebacking core and Winfield on defense. Is it crazy to say I have more confidence in the receivers than anyone else on offense? I don’t know. Bobby D had it right. The times they are a-changin’.
wildcat00: Special teams. I have full faith in Carpenter, and both kick coverage and the return game have been better than expected. If Herbers can stay at the level he maintained through the Miami game, special teams could be the difference between 5-7 and 7-5 this season.