Before we reset to 0-0 and start preparing for Maryland, let’s close the book on the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ fortuitous road trip to New Jersey to face the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, a meeting that ended in a 42-7 drubbing in favor of the maroon and gold.
What is your Tweet-length (280 characters or less) summary of the Gophers’ 42-7 victory over Rutgers?
Ustreet: Rutgers is bad.
wildcat00: What UStreet said.
gopherguy05: Minnesota looked like non-conference Minnesota for the first half, but it didn’t really matter because all three non-conference teams we played would beat Rutgers by three touchdowns.
IowaGopher: Rutgers is good at punting!
GopherNation: Yes, Rutgers is really bad. But so is Illinois!
mowe0018: 7-0. Covered spread. Just win, baby. West is winnable.
zipsofakron: Crushing bad teams is what good teams do. Minnesota continues to at least look like they are a good team.
WSR: We’re good. 7-0 good. Rutgers is bad. Gonna lose to Liberty bad.
Rutgers is very bad
Very very very bad
Super duper bad
To borrow a Fleck-ism, who is your pick for “Nekton of the Week” from the game?
Ustreet: Phillip Howard. His interception was excellent, and he was thrust into game action because of an injury to Terrell Smith. That strikes me as exactly what the Nekton mentality is about.
wildcat00: I’m just going to say Casey O’Brien. His presence wasn’t critical to the game, of course. But this is a terrific story, and his even being on the field qualifies him as Nekton of the Year, in my opinion.
gopherguy05: I’ll just give it to Rodney Smith. Not flashy but he just does what he does every single week.
IowaGopher: Ustreet rightfully calls to attention to Phillip Howard for stepping in and making his first career interception, but I think I have to go with Casey O’Brien.
GopherNation: Casey O’Brien. The entire team had a good day but O’Brien stole the show. That was a beautiful moment.
mowe0018: See above.
zipsofakron: Casey O’Brien is the obvious choice. From a performance perspective I’m going with Rodney Smith, who continues to be a machine between the tackles.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: Casey O’Brien. Dude doesn't have a knee but still went 3-for-3 on extra point holds.
GoAUpher: Tyler Johnson. You break Eric Decker’s record for most 100-yard receiving games in program history, you get a NoW award from me. (But for real, it’s Casey)
With this being an historic game for Minnesota — the program’s first ever trip to Piscataway — did you do anything special to mark or commemorate the occasion?
Ustreet: Watched Rutgers play football voluntarily.
wildcat00: I didn’t realize this was such a momentous occasion, or I might have found some celebration more appropriate than just watching the game. I did appreciate Rutgers’ throwback uniforms, and considering my general feelings about alternate uniforms, that was an unprecedented celebration.
IowaGopher: I prepared mini tacos from Trader Joe’s. And by “prepared” I mean I removed them from the package, arranged them on a pan, and baked them in the oven. I was skeptical of their quality initially, but they were surprisingly good.
GopherNation: This was a major missed opportunity for a trophy game.
mowe0018: It was appalling to see such an important (from historical perspective for our program) game be played against such a terrible opponent in such a dead environment. Them the breaks.
zipsofakron: Because Rutgers is essentially New Jersey State I started wondering about professional sports teams in New Jersey and got down a rabbit hole with the New Jersey Devils. It was a lonely afternoon.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: I nearly went to New Jersey.
GoAUpher: I explored the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, which has a really interesting photography exhibit right now. No, for real, I’m not kidding. I wasn’t going to waste a day in Indy (underrated city that y’all will hopefully get to explore on B1G Championship weekend) to watch Rutgers be poopy. Watched the game and skipped all the dumb stuff. Was happy.
At what point did your Gopher fan pessimism recede and allow you to accept that the game was in hand?
Ustreet: The moment of the first kickoff.
wildcat00: Last week, when I realized just how genuinely awful Rutgers is right now.
gopherguy05: The opening drive of the third quarter. Once we stopped playing like hot garbage. But yeah, Rutgers is that bad.
IowaGopher: I was never nervous. When Rutgers lost 12 yards on a pass play on their second possession of the game, I certainly felt validated. I wasn’t happy with the way the Gopher offense was playing in the first half, but the result was never in doubt.
GopherNation: I don’t have such pessimism and I reject the implication.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: The opening drive of the game. When Antoine Winfield grabbed that duck, I knew we weren’t going to have any problems with them.
GoAUpher: Once we had 14 points.
zipsofakron: If I’m being honest it wasn’t until the third quarter.
The Minnesota offense is red hot, averaging 36.4 points per game. What has been most impressive about this offense through the first seven games?
Ustreet: That they’re doing a lot of that scoring when not getting their best athletes the ball in space.
wildcat00: I have enormous appreciation for the Gophers being able to move the ball through the air, on the ground, whatever. That this is happening despite some key injuries and plenty of youth is a great sign.
gopherguy05: A good run/pass balance with what appears to be plenty of places to grow and get even better.
IowaGopher: The fact that they haven’t put together a complete game yet, but are putting up points at a pace that this program hasn’t seen in years.
GopherNation: The offense is balanced and they are really good at putting their best players in position to make plays, usually exploiting something in your defense.
mowe0018: Diversification of the attack, doing so while dealing with offensive line shuffling (albeit minor shuffles), and still recognizing there is room for improvement and growth. These are all indicators that future success against toughest defenses is at least within the realm of possibility.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: They’re good enough that they’ll find a weakness that the opponent has and can exploit it. I’m not used to seeing that.
GoAUpher: That they can recover from a bad half and come out firing. Old Gopher teams would have just kept slogging in the mud and made Saturday a 24-7 win at best.
zipsofakron: I keep reminding myself that there are two NFL-caliber receivers on this team and their usage still leaves something to be desired. All while racking up more than 36 points per game.
How concerned are you about the defense if Kamal Martin is sidelined for an extended period?
Ustreet: He’s a big loss, but I’m less concerned now than I was when he was out at the beginning of the season.
wildcat00: Ugh. This is bad, and could have huge impact as the schedule gets tougher. Fingers and toes crossed.
gopherguy05: Pretty concerned. I think they can adapt, but playing two teams in a row with really shifty athletes in the backfield will be an immediate test for the Gophers’ sophomore linebackers and whether they now “get it” more than they did in the non-conference portion of the season.
IowaGopher: I don’t feel good about it. For as athletic as he is, you’d think Martin would be more valuable against the pass, but in the Gophers’ base 4-2-5 defense, he has frequently slid into the inside linebacker role to stop the run. His success there is a large part of why he leads the team in tackles. Losing him for even a few games would be a significant blow to this defense. But what gives me hope is that defensive coordinator Joe Rossi faced a similar situation last year in the Quick Lane Bowl, when he was without both Blake Cashman and Kamal Martin against the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option rushing attack. I’ll be interested to see what scheme and personnel changes he makes to adjust for Martin’s absence, which could mean more work for linebackers Mariano Sori-Marin and Braelen Oliver or a more diversified role for Carter Coughlin.
GopherNation: This week? Not concerned too much. But I’d really like to see him back for that final four-game stretch. At the beginning of the year I wouldn’t have put him in the category of “major loss,” but he has been outstanding this season.
mowe0018: When a unit loses its most consistent performer, it is very difficult for there not to be a noticeable negative impact on said unit. However, I think with enough proper preparation the amount of negative impact can be slightly mitigated so that it is not a deciding factor in the remaining games this season.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: Quite concerned. But if we’re going to adapt a Fleck-like mentality, this just means its an opportunity for Oliver and Sori-Marin to change their best and not fuck up.
GoAUpher: I would much prefer he’s not out all season.
The next time I tell you that a team is “bad, like really bad,” will you please listen and relax?
Ustreet: I was never not relaxed.
wildcat00: GASP! I always listen to you!
gopherguy05: I never listen to interns.
mowe0018: I wasn’t worried. Only concern were the advanced metrics being harmed by playing such a terrible opponent. Fortunately that wasn’t the case. Huzzah.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: Sure. Whatever.
GoAUpher: Why are you yelling at me when I was already in agreement with you?
zipsofakron: [looks up from reading recap of Wisconsin-Illinois] No.