As I sit here and watch
The Bachelorette Fargo, I am thinking about last weekend’s win over Illinois. Honestly, it was a relief. The first two weeks were very ugly, in their own ways. It triggered memories of a Glen Mason defense or worse yet...the Brewster years. Sorry.
The win over the Illini wasn’t just about getting a win. We all remember those games where we are just happy that the game ended with Minnesota having more points than the opponent AND the knowledge of getting a Big Ten win was such a relief.
This win was different. This was the Gophers controlling the game and never really sweating it out. But it was much more about the how, not the win.
The offense has been fine in 2020, the offensive line is what we’re waiting to see develop. The defense has NOT been fine but last weekend was much better. Nothing perfect and it is not like they were facing a Big Ten powerhouse. But it was improvement.
This gives me hope that the first two weeks were more of the exception than the rule for the rest of the 2020 season.
But I am trusting the process. This season is abbreviated and disjointed and just weird. But it is part of the process to a 2021 season that I’m very excited about.
This season, I want to see this defense get better.
There are so many new names on this side of the ball and they are replacing some incredibly talented names who left. We’ve been over this, many times. This change of 7 starters on defense is going to take a little bit of time to adjust. The more live reps they see then one of two things happens. Either they get better, or they don’t. Ideally the game begins to slow down for them, reads become easier and they can just being to rely on their talent to make plays. But it takes reps. And sometimes the game doesn’t slow down and then the decision has to be made to move on to the next guy.
Same can be said for the offensive line with this program. But giving most of the defense, the offensive line and down-the-depth-chart receivers 8 games to figure things out, is what’s needed.
So what am I looking for in 2020? Two things...
1 - Get Better
Illinois was step one in that journey. It won’t be a linear progression and it will be different for every one of those guys. But getting better and getting to the point where this team is going to compete for a Big Ten title in 2021 is what I’m most looking for this weird season.
Some guys may miss time due to Covid or other injuries, some guys may need to lose their spot in the lineup and some guys just needed the opportunity. You’re seeing buys like Boye Mafe and DeAngelo Carter taking advantage of their opportunities. While Cody Lindenberg, Mariano Sori-Marin and Tyler Nuben are clearly learning as they go. Jordan Howden is learning to play without Winfield next to him while he takes on some leadership. Terell Smith is being given a chance to earn his spot.
Those names are currently showing up on your screen when things aren’t going so well (some of the time). But those are the names I’m looking at to be making plays consistently in 2021.
2 - Rivalry Trophies
I’m not totally blowing off this season. Realistically, I’m not seeing this as a team to win the West. Their path to Indianapolis is narrow and it may be halted before we even get to December. My attitude may change if we win the next three games.
But really what I want, are rivalry trophies.
I WANT FLOYD!
I WANT THE AXE!
We have the Bell, we have the Chair and we missed out on the Jug. But right now, I want Floyd.
Getting a win on Friday night puts this team at 2-2, the season half over. But more importantly, we get Floyd back in Minnesota.
Much of the team needs to continue to get a little bit better for this to occur. So more of #1 needs to happen if we are going to get #2. I want both and ultimately I want it to lead to an elite 2021 where we go into the season holding a plethora rivalry trophies.