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

The first shutout against a Big Ten opponent since 2004

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Minnesota Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-3) got back in the win column, snapping a three-game losing streak with a 31-0 win at home over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-4).

The Elite

Mohamed Ibrahim. Week in and week out, Ibrahim is the highlight of the Gophers’ offense. Saturday was no different, as he put the team on his back, rushing for 159 yards and three touchdowns on 36 carries. Not only did he extend his streak of consecutive games with 100+ rushing yards to 16 games, but Ibrahim also became the program’s all-time leader in career touchdowns, breaking the record previously held by Darrell Thompson.

Snacking on the sideline. If you’ve ever wondered what fuels Ibrahim on the field, wonder no more. After scoring a touchdown, he was rewarded with a pack of Gushers.

A 99-yard opening drive. Starting their opening drive of the game in their own end zone after Rutgers punter Adam Korsak pinned Minnesota inside the one-yard line, the Gophers proceeded to march down the field, chewing up 10 minutes and 27 seconds of game clock. Minnesota converted four third downs and capped the 19-play scoring drive with a two-yard touchdown run by Ibrahim to give the Gophers a 7-0 lead. It set the tone for the rest of the game, which saw the Gophers dominate the time of possession, 41:02 vs. 18:58.

The Minnesota defense records their first shutout against a Big Ten opponent since 2004. To be clear, Rutgers’ offense is not good. Redshirt freshman Gavin Wimsatt got the surprise start at quarterback and was ineffective, though his wide receivers did him no favors by dropping multiple passes. The Scarlet Knights were without top running back Samuel Brown V, their most productive player on offense. The offensive line drew three false start penalties. But credit where credit is due. The Gophers’ defense took advantage, pitching a shutout and limiting Rutgers to 134 yards of total offense. The Scarlet Knights were also 2-of-10 on third down.

Tyler Nubin. The senior safety has been turning heads all season long, with many pundits looking to his future in the NFL. Nubin was hard to miss on Saturday, recording two interceptions.

The Meh

The Gophers’ offense. P.J. Fleck will tell you the offense did exactly what they needed to do to win the game, but I found it to be a frustrating performance. Minnesota imposed their will upon Rutgers in their first two possessions, putting together a 19-play, 99-yard opening drive before following it up with with a 13-play, 86-yard touchdown drive. Quarterback Tanner Morgan, back from a concussion, was 7-of-9 for 82 passing yards on those two drives. But then the offense went into hibernation, punting on their next five possessions. Fleck seemed to feel a 14-0 lead in the fourth quarter was safe and put the play-calling on auto-pilot, prioritizing taking time off the clock over trying to add to their lead, before turnovers gift-wrapped scoring opportunities for the offense.

The Ugly

The lack of a pass rush. Danny Striggow registered a sack late in the fourth quarter, but Jah Joyner seems to be the only member of the Gophers’ defensive line who can consistently generate pressure. Minnesota has a good secondary, but they can only do so much if opposing quarterbacks are being kept clean behind the line of scrimmage.

Minnesota’s special teams. Rutgers punter Adam Korsak is one of the best punters in college football, so perhaps it’s unfair to compare him against Minnesota punter Mark Crawford. But the difference between the two punters looked like a gulf on Saturday. Korsak punted five times and averaged 51.2 yards per punt, including a 77-yard punt in the second quarter that flipped the field for the Scarlet Knights. Crawford punted four times, averaged 39.2 yards per punt, and had two touchbacks, one of which came on a punt from Rutgers territory.

My game prediction. Very relieved to have been wrong!