Well that was exciting! After going down by 1 late in the fourth quarter, the Minnesota Gophers rose to the occassion (literally in the case of Tyler Johnson and Antoine Winfield Jr.) to beat the Fresno State Bulldogs in an important early season test, 21-14.
I’m not going to pretend this game was always pretty. I’m not going to pretend we should feel great about everything. But in a game where the Gophers could have folded they came back and made good things happen. That’s something we should be happy about and this is a win that I’m going to enjoy, especially when you consider I’m the happy to be wrong guy who predicted we’d lose.
Let the sounds of the Rouser fill your mind as we go through some things I liked and didn’t like about tonight.
Things I liked
- The quick passing game. Screens, slants, timing throws...if it was happening quickly it was working for the most part. So much so that it felt noticeable when the Gophers went away from it for much of the latter part of the game. We’ll get to that later.
- The defense (for most of the game). The Gopher D held a Fresno State squad that had looked pretty good (albeit against terrible competition) in check for the most part. The big play the gave up was super painful, but it was also a rarity. The first scoring drive was on a short field, which isn’t their fault. Additionally, the Gophers tackled exceptionally well in the open field and swarmed the ball all game. For now, I’m quite comfortable with what Minnesota is doing on the defensive side of the ball. The chunks they gave up on the last two drives were annoying but I’m not getting too worked up when the unit was strong overall.
- Terell Smith. This dude is a really good player and he keeps showing it early this season at cornerback. Easily my favorite freshman right now and that’s hard to do when Rashad Bateman is a guy who plays for us.
- Emmit Carpenter. Dude. Kicking bombs tonight!
- Zack Annexstad. The kid does some things really well. He’s still playing like a freshman (and oh boy can you see it sometimes) but he’s also executing more than I expected and he’s shown an ability to escape (THAT SCRAMBLE THROW TO TYLER JOHNSON) and it’s something that will be helpful if the OL continues to struggle.
- THAT PLAY. YOU KNOW THE ONE. Please ignore the blocking issues that led to it.
OR DID I MEAN THIS PLAY?
Incredible interception by Antoine Winfield Jr to seal win over Fresno. pic.twitter.com/1riSBHyjc6— Thor Nystrom (@thorku) September 9, 2018
Things I didn’t like
- Rodney Smith being hurt. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. We don’t know how bad it is yet, but it didn’t look good.
- The offensive line. Just...ugh. O-line play is not a good thing right now. I especially have to call out the painful play of both offensive tackles, who got blown up repeatedly. You take Rodney away and suddenly it’s totally clear how often he’s the one who make yards happen in the run game. Also Zack Annexstad is going to get killed if this keeps up.
- The offensive play calling in the second half. Your o-line is sucking. Might that be a time to go back to the quick passing elements you worked so effectively earlier? (This is the part where I hopefully missed the things Fresno did to take that game away because otherwise just argh).
- The bad version of Jacob Herbers. Please stop punting the ball only 33 yards. Please. I appreciate that you got better after back to back terrible punts but maybe don’t kick bad ones at all? Thanks.
- Carter Coughlin’s roughing penalty. You gotta be smarter than that Carter. Got to.