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Minnesota Football vs. Maryland: The Elite, The Meh & The Ugly

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It was a good day to be a Gopher running back

Bucko Irving celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Maryland Gopher Sports

The Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-2) put together perhaps their most complete performance of the season in a dominant 34-16 win over the Maryland Terrapins (4-3).

The Elite

The Gophers’ ground game. The Minnesota Movers imposed their will on the Terps’ defensive front, opening up running lanes for Ky Thomas (139 rushing yards), Bucko Irving (105), and Bryce Williams (48). All three each scored a touchdown, as well. As a team, the Gophers rushed for a season-high 326 rushing yards. Minnesota had 55 rushing attempts, which tells you that Maryland knew what was coming by a certain point in the game but simply had no answer for the Gophers’ rushing attack. Minnesota dominated the time of possession, 37:35 to 22:25, and didn’t even require the services of punter Mark Crawford until the fourth quarter.

The Minnesota defense. Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi has quietly built one of the best defenses in the Big Ten this season, and his unit was playing at a high level on Saturday. The Gophers limited the Terps to 268 yards of total offense, 91 of which came on a touchdown drive in the final minutes of the game. Minnesota needed to contain Taulia Tagovailoa and did exactly that, as the Maryland quarterback finished 17-of-27 for 189 passing yards and a touchdown. They also sacked him twice and forced him to fumble on the Terps’ opening drive.

Defending the run. The Gophers came into the game ranked sixth in the country in run defense, allowing an average of 86.8 rushing yards per game. Minnesota put the brakes on the Terps’ ground game, holding them to 79 rushing yards. Linebacker Jack Gibbens was again the key cog in those efforts, leading the team with 10 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. You’ll recall the Gophers surrendered 281 rushing yards to Maryland a season ago, so what a difference a year makes.

Conner Olson. The Minnesota offensive lineman started at left guard on Saturday, which marked his 52nd straight start for the Gophers, a new school record.

Minnesota moves into a tie for first place in the Big Ten West. After the inexplicable loss to Bowling Green, the Gophers have won three straight games against Big Ten opponents, improving their conference record to 3-1 and sliding into a first place tie with Iowa. The road ahead is treacherous, but Minnesota is very much in contention and controls their destiny.

The Meh

I could put the passing game here, but I think we all understand that Tanner Morgan only attempting 12 passes wasn’t because of poor play. With the success they were having on the ground, there was no need for Tanner to sling the ball around.

The Ugly

The blocked field goal attempt. Maryland could have easily tied the game before halftime if they had been able to scoop and score with the 38-yard field goal attempt they blocked on the final play of the half. I know more than a few Gopher fans were puzzled by the decision to call six consecutive run plays before spiking the football on third down to set up the field goal attempt. Head coach P.J. Fleck could have been more aggressive and allowed his veteran quarterback a shot at the end zone but opted to play it safe, which has been his M.O. for quite some time now.