Spirits are high at the figurative offices of The Daily Gopher after the Minnesota Golden Gophers beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers 34-7 on Saturday to improve to 6-0, their best start to a season since 2003. We welcome you to share in our positive energy!
What is your Tweet-length (280 characters or less) summary of the Gophers’ 34-7 victory over Nebraska?
gopherguy05: Just like the USPS, come sleet, rain, or snow the Gopher offense is ready to go and move the team to 6-0. Hello, defense, my old friend, you’ve come to kill another star player again.
GopherNation: A win would have been just fine, but Nebraska is not very good this year and dominating them tells me more.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: It’s really quite a bit of fun to watch this team get better every week.
GoAUpher: Schadenfreude haiku time!
Row row row your boat
Piss off the Nebraska fans
Fleck made Frost pouty
mowe0018: 6-0. Just win, baby. Bring on the haters.
IowaGopher: To paraphrase a postgame comment from Nebraska head coach Scott Frost, the Cornhuskers knew exactly what the Gophers were going to do on offense and still couldn’t stop them. Almost brings a tear to my eye.
zipsofakron: My fiancée looked at me in the second half of the game and said, “Wow, I’ve never seen the side of you where you’re happy BECAUSE the Gophers are doing well.”
All of a sudden, in the distance there is a sound. It is music. Wait is it? Late in the afternoon?
BAH GAWD THAT’S USTREET MUSIC
UStreet: Never in doubt from the get go.
To borrow a Fleck-ism, who is your pick for “Nekton of the Week” from the game?
gopherguy05: John Michael Schmitz. The dude is just killing people out there and it’s no surprise the Gopher offense has had its best three games the last three weeks he has seen significant playing time.
GopherNation: Sam Renner was rather impressive for the Gophers all night. A sack, two pass break-ups, and he caused Carter Coughlin’s sack too. If he didn’t get the quarterback, he was at least in the backfield creating pressure.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: Drop aside, I would have went with Jake Paulson. He’s putting in some great work pounding fools to help the offensive line and the run game. You know what? I’ll excuse that drop. He probably just got confused by being all by himself.
GoAUpher: Heart you, Rodney Smith.
mowe0018: The offensive line. Dealt with an injury with great aplomb. Getting better with every game. Do work, young men.
IowaGopher: I have to agree on Schmitz. Heck of a first career start. And he is only a redshirt sophomore. Get used to hearing his name.
zipsofakron: Schmitz. He was like a snow plow with a NOS boost the entire game. It was 35W all night for the running backs.
UStreet: Kamal Martin. The BIG agrees.
What has been the key to the offensive line's improvement from Week 1 to Week 7?
gopherguy05: See above. I think JMS is one major key, and the ability to rotate guards — except for Saturday with right tackle Daniel Faalele out. The offensive line is now playing as a cohesive unit rather than five individuals, and it looks much more like what we expected.
GopherNation: I’ll concur with gopherguy05 on JMS, but everyone was better. Curtis Dunlap Jr. was really awful earlier in the year, but he dominated against Nebraska. P.J. Fleck said in a postgame interview that he thought this was Conner Olson’s best game yet. So collectively, this unit came together on Saturday.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: Adding JMS to the mix was huge. It puts Conner Olson at guard, which is a better spot for him than center, and allows the team to rotate guys to keep them a bit fresher. That, and they just look like they want to maul the hell out of fools. That’s always helpful for an offensive line.
GoAUpher: I’m no offensive line genius. However, I’m smart enough to listen to Derek Burns when he talks about the Gopher offensive line on Twitter. Early in the year his point was that the line was using bad technique to deal with stunts and other looks being thrown at them. In addition, he felt there was poor communication at times between linemen about assignments. Clearly since the bye week the line has heard what the coaches have been teaching on that front because this is a MUCH improved unit that is blocking with power instead of just trying to be big.
mowe0018: The bye week obviously helped and apparently if you have a competent coaching staff, some depth, and a decent talent level, units (in this case the offensive line) can improve as the season goes on. It’s a concept that we have been mostly unfamiliar with in the last 15 years or so of Gopher football. But it appears that it is indeed possible.
IowaGopher: They’ve gelled to the point that they didn’t even miss a beat with Faalele sidelined against Nebraska. His absence meant the offensive line would have to trade size for athleticism, but even that allowed them to execute their outside zone rushing offense to perfection. The offensive line is firing on all cylinders at the moment.
UStreet: Communication. Communication. Communication. Also a healthy crew of running backs makes lots of lines look nice.
If you're an opposing defensive coordinator, how do you game plan for Rodney Smith, Shannon Brooks, and Mohamed Ibrahim?
gopherguy05: Tell the team to tackle solidly, because if any of the three running backs can get their hands on you first, it’s not going to go well.
GopherNation: Fortunately for opposing defenses, only one of them can have the ball at a time. But it looks like Brooks and Smith are both back while Ibrahim has always been Ibrahim. These guys are fun to watch.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: Honestly? I do what Illinois did, but try to tackle better. Recognize that there’s only two run plays, know that passing comes mostly from RPO on inside zone, and pray that the gigantic gaps don’t open up.
GoAUpher: The same way you beat a team like Wisconsin. You have to be fundamentally sound, always be in the right gap, gamble by putting numbers in the box, and hope the pass doesn’t beat you too badly.
mowe0018: I’m sure above average speed at the linebacker position would help. As WSR said, scouting the tape and knowing there are only a handful of looks coming at you from the run game is a good start as well. I’m sure one of the tough defenses coming up in November will give a quality blue print as to how to do it. For now, I will enjoy the success of the three-headed monster.
IowaGopher: I mean, to reiterate what Scott Frost said, even when Nebraska knew what was coming, they couldn’t stop it. You have to be tough up front against this offensive line, stick to your gap, and hold on for dear life if you get a hand on any of the ball carriers.
zipsofakron: It’s less about stopping the three running backs and more about not getting moved out of the way by the offensive line. You saw in the first three games that the runners were significantly less effective, which was a result of not having lanes to run in. Beat the line, contain the running the game. That’s looking like it’s harder and harder to do, which is a nod to the coaching staff.
UStreet: What GoAUpher and zips said.
What was the key defensively to shutting down Nebraska on offense?
gopherguy05: Great linebacker play filling gaps, and getting a pass rush outside of blitzing situations.
GopherNation: I loved that every time Nebraska made a big play in the first half, it was followed up with the defense making a big play of their own.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: Destroying a bad offensive line. The fat kids did some great work. Was Kamal Martin touched by the offensive line all night long?
GoAUpher: Not listening to Nebraska fans. I’m sorry, I intended to end the schadenfreude above but I failed.
mowe0018: Pressure on the quarterback, sound gap assignments, tenacious field coverage by your elite playmakers like Antoine Winfield Jr., Martin, etc.
IowaGopher: Making tackles at the line of scrimmage. Nebraska’s ball carriers had to fight for every yard because either Kamal Martin or a defensive lineman or some other Gopher defender was waiting to stop them in their tracks at the line of scrimmage.
zipsofakron: Big stops on third and fourth downs in their own territory. You could tell they weren’t nervous just because the Huskers were moving the ball for a few plays in a row. The blitzes really put their offense off balance as well.
UStreet: Avoiding one v. one matchups against their skill players and winning in the trenches.
In the spirit of Sam Renner's dominance against the Huskers, who is your unsung hero on defense?
Gopherguy05: Carter Coughlin for deciding, “Holding be damned, I’m not going to let these guys stop me anymore.”
GopherNation: I thought Chris Williamson did a really nice job supporting the run game. Especially in the first half, I felt he was in on quite a few plays.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: Did we really have any “heroes” on defense? Everybody was out there doing work. If we’ve got to go with someone, I’ll say Thomas Barber because he’s a Barber and he had a few rough game earlier in the year. That wasn’t the case Saturday night.
GoAUpher: I don’t believe in your rules. I’m choosing Sam Renner.
mowe0018: Don’t know if it qualifies as unsung but AWJ was all over the field and being an excellent leader of the entire unit.
IowaGopher: Micah Dew-Treadway consistently drew double teams against Nebraska, which allowed Renner and others on the defensive line to feast on their blockers.
zipsofakron: Carter Coughlin didn’t get his name called nearly enough on Saturday night, but he was doing work out there, and being held 95% of the time.
UStreet: IowaGopher is copping out by picking the other defensive tackle. I’ll do the same.
What were you doing with your life when the Gophers were last 6-0 in 2003?
gopherguy05: I was enjoying studying abroad in London and was getting ready for the next game, which was also my 21st birthday and a Friday night thanks to the twins, and then I remember nothing that happened after that. NOTHING—YOU UNDERSTAND—ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAPPENED.
GopherNation: I was sitting at home watching the game and didn’t watch most of the fourth quarter. I think friends were over and we were flipping between the Gopher game and something else. I was a little nervous in the fourth but then Asad Abdul-Kaliq kept an option and ran for a very long touchdown. Felt that was probably the nail in the coffin.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: I don’t want to talk about it.
GoAUpher: /narrows eye
mowe0018: I was probably at a band competition. I didn’t really know of Gopher football’s existence yet. Based on my peers’ reactions, it appears that was for the better.
IowaGopher: I was 12. And to be clear, I wrote this as more of, “What were you doing back in 2003?” question, so it’s very telling that most respondents here assumed it was a reference to the infamous Michigan game from that year. The PTSD is real!
zipsofakron: Definitely not planning to go to the HHH Metrodome the next week to see the Gophers win back The Jug for the first time in my life.
UStreet: What Zips said.