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Minnesota Football vs Maryland: The Elite, The Meh, and The Ugly

Ugly does not even begin to describe this game

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Well, let’s get to it.

The Elite

Mohamed Ibrahim. Ibrahim tied the program’s single-game record for rushing touchdowns with four, and rushed for 207 yards on 41 carries. The redshirt junior running back now has 347 rushing yards and six touchdowns through the Gophers’ first two games.

Chris Autman-Bell. After recording one catch in Week 1, Autman-Bell made the most of four receptions against the Terps, racking up 112 receiving yards and a touchdown.

De’Angelo Carter’s first career interception. The Gophers’ first defensive stop of the game came in the second quarter, trailing 21-14. Rush end Boye Mafe tipped a Taulia Tagovailoa pass and defensive tackle De’Angelo Carter plucked it out of the air, barreling down the field for 21 yards to set up Minnesota’s offense at the Maryland 29-yard line.

The Meh

Special teams. Kickoffs were a substantial improvement from Week 1, with Michael Lantz taking over kickoff duties. Punter Matthew Stephenson was also serviceable, averaging 34.8 yards on four punts. Starting punter Mark Crawford did not make the trip. And to be clear, Brock Walker’s missed extra point was not the reason the Gophers lost. I hope no one puts that on him. It was lost well before he ever stepped on the field in overtime.

Rashod Bateman. The Gophers’ future NFL Draft pick has had a quiet start to the season and was absence for large stretches of the Maryland game. Bateman finished the game with five receptions for 62 receiving yards and has yet to find the end zone this season.

The Ugly

The Gopher defense.

  • Maryland scored 45 points and amassed 675 total yards of offense, one week after scoring 3 points and totaling 207 yards of offense against Northwestern.
  • Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was 26-of-35 for 394 passing yards and four touchdowns, in addition to 8 carries for 64 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
  • Running back Jake Funk rushed for a career-high 216 yards on 21 carries, averaging 10.3 yards per carry, and scored one touchdown on the ground.

What more is there to say? This is worse than Robb Smith. This is the worst defense I’ve seen since ‘07. Seriously. The defensive ends can’t set the edge and look slow as molasses in pursuit when the quarterback escapes the pocket. The linebackers can’t plug gaps, take bad angles to the ball, and miss tackles left and right. The cornerbacks are frequently lost in coverage and can’t make open field tackles. The safeties are slow to read and react. There are critical failures at every position. It is astonishing how poor the play is across the board. Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi and every position coach on defense should be coaching for their jobs the rest of the way at this point. If it is a matter of talent, that is a serious indictment of P.J. Fleck. This is Year 4. Losing seven starters should not be this calamitous. It is embarrassing and unacceptable.

The offensive play-calling in the fourth quarter. It was pretty clear Maryland defense was selling out to stop the run in the second half. The only person who didn’t seem to notice was offensive co-coordinator Mike Sanford Jr. After building their 38-21 lead in the third quarter, the Gophers punted on their next three drives as the Terps scored 17 unanswered points. The first two drives followed the same script: run, run, pass. And both were three-and-outs. On their last offensive possession of regulation, Minnesota was stuffed for one yard on 2nd & 3 and then stopped for no gain on 3rd & 2. This loss is entirely on the defense, but had the offense been able to sustain one scoring drive in the fourth quarter, the Gophers probably win in regulation.

The Gophers are the doormat of the Big Ten West. Minnesota will not win a game the rest of the season, barring a miraculous turnaround. I can’t think of a more demoralizing follow-up to the program’s first 11-win season since 1904. Progress isn’t always linear, but this season is shaping up to be a step back of disastrous proportions. If you believe in the concept of momentum for a program, Minnesota has effectively wiped out any momentum from last season.