There is a trick path to navigate when the Gophers open the season with a loss but yet you aren’t exactly upset by the loss. In a world that is increasingly binary I choose to believe that one can accept a loss to a top 5 team that has superior talent up and down their lineup, without being happy about it.
It is the old, “moral victory” bullshit that gets thrown around. Am I happy that we lost by “only” 14? No. But do I fee like I need to rant about how this is the same ol’Gophers and what an opportunity that was missed..AGAIN? No, I don’t remotely feel that way at all.
What I feel is very ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Thursday’s season opener was a loss on the books and the Gophers are looking up at Purdue, Illinois and Iowa in the Big Ten standings after the first week. But I said it before the game and I’ll say it again, I care far more about the remaining 11 games than I do about the 1st one.
Regarding the Ohio State game, I will say that midway through the 3rd quarter there really was a glimmer of hope for a moment. Ohio State came out of halftime and very quickly scored to erase the Gopher’s halftime lead. It was very easy to assume at that point that this is when the Buckeyes would flex their muscle and pull away. But that would come later, for a moment, the Gophers answered. They went down the field on their next possession and Mohamed Ibrahim scored on a 19-yard TD run. A glimmer of hope was there. But then a few mistakes were made that Ohio State took advantage of in big ways.
In the end, should anyone be surprised that we lost to Ohio State? There were some very encouraging things that we saw on Thursday and some rather concerning things as well. But this is why we play the games.
What was concerning? Touchdown plays of 71, 56, 70 and 61 plus a big defensive score are something to be very concerned about, even it they came from some of the most explosive players in the Big Ten. Big plays from this Ohio State team should be expected, but that many? Big plays are going to be more frequent when you begin losing key players in your secondary, but that many? All 6 OSU touchdowns were over 30 yards, 4 of them over 50. That is a problem, regardless of opponent.
Related to the concern above is safety depth. Once Jordan Howden went out, there was a significant dropoff. Calivin Swenson and Michael Dixon were swapped in and out, neither proving to be particularly effective. Getting Howden back is going to be critical. Developing Dixon (or someone) to be able to be effective later in the season is equally as critical.
On the flip side, there were some really encouraging things. The Gopher offensive line, which traditionally has struggled early in the season, was really good. It was very good against what will be the best defensive line they will see all year.
Dylan Wright was much better than expected. There is zero doubt that Wright earned the trust of Morgan and the coaching staff after Thursday night. Perhaps he already had throughout fall camp, but nothing really indicated that until we saw him perform very well under the lights. Getting Chris Autman-Bell back and healthy, should give the Gophers two very good receivers.
Ibrahim was elite, which was not unexpected. His injury is a blow and it will be very interesting to see how the Gopher rushing game progresses from here.
I’m getting a little too far into the weeds here.
Here’s what it comes down to, I don’t care about game 1. I would really like to see the Gophers win the next 3 games and then let’s see how the remaining 8 conference games play out. I saw nothing on Thursday that would indicate this team can’t compete with anyone in the Big Ten West.
They need to get better.
Win the next three games. By any margin. I don’t care if Bowling Green is a 3-point win in overtime or if it is a 30-point win. Just win the next three games and then we will reassess.