It is a great weekend when the Gophers beat a major rival, especially if a win over that particular rival has been elusive over recent years.
After 8 consecutive losses to the Hawkeyes, and not winning in Iowa City since 1999, the Gophers finally prevailed and brought Floyd back on the bus back to Dinkeytown.
It was exciting, it was a huge relief and when we this will certainly change how we view this season when we look back in a few months. The team was elated, the coaching staff was overjoyed and this was a huge win for the program.
Typically TMP is here to keep fans from going postal after bad losses, it really is about keeping perspective. Once it a while I will get very excited when good things happen and when the time is right I will pile on to the negative. Today, I’m absolutely thrilled with this win, but once the emotions wear off, you really need a lot of lipstick (along with some foundation and eye-liner) to make this pig look good.
I get it, sometimes you win ugly. Iowa has been doing that for a long time. And a win, is a win; there is no reason to apologize for winning 12-10 on the road. Minnesota earned that win. They executed in the 2nd half, forced turnovers, slowed Iowa’s offense from a crawl to a dead stop and they didn’t have anything handed to them.
Short-term, this was a win that was earned. Maybe it was ugly, but it wasn’t luck. Long-term? There are some things to be very concerned about. I want more for this program, as I know you all do too. Some things from Saturday were not concerning from the standpoint of that particular game, but more from a program perspective. Where are we headed and what is going to prevent this program from getting better?
First and foremost, it is special teams.
Not only am I not the first to jump on board the “fire Rob Wenger” trian, but I may be the last to get on board. Individually speaking, Dragan Kesich has had a fantastic season as the Gopher kicker. He was responsible for all 12 Gopher points on Saturday when the offense was unable to find the end zone. He leads the Big Ten in FGs made and is now the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week.
But overall, the Gopher special teams are almost actively trying to make it harder to win games. Kick return is deadl ast in the Big Ten, but a wide range.
- Kick Return - dead last in the Big Ten by a wide margin. Currently netting 11.1 yards per kick return. Rutgers leads the Big Ten with 36.7 yards and the 13th best team (the one ahead of Minnesota) is at 15.8. I can’t imagine it would be terribly difficult to get 5 more yards per return here.
- Punt Coverage - Crawford’s net punting average is lower in the conference, due to poor coverage.
Every game, there seems to be an issue on special teams. Want to fair catch everything and don’t hurt your team’s chances of winning? Fine. But how about a unit that may actually help your team.
Quintin Redding has STRUGGLED all year long returning punts and kickoffs. Saturday was no exception. Was it windy? It was, but it was windy when Iowa was returning as well. And frankly by this point in the season and his career, if these issues are not fixed I have zero blame on Redding. This is on the coaching staff for either not helping him correct is struggles or not finding someone else capable (Sean Tyler or Kristyn Hoskins perhaps?). This is 100% a coaching issue.
If PJ wants to take the road of “I’m the head coach, this stops with me” then do something about it. Rob Wenger actively makes it harder for the Gophers to win games. And many years, our margin for error is not that great.
Secondly, offensive play-calling is bad.
There is a lack of creativity when it comes to attempting to get a defense off-balance. The idea of a well-timed screen is elusive. But mostly the passing game is just not very good.
Too often our wide receiver routes are congested, take too long and are not helping out the quarterback in any way. There seem to be a lot of short passes to running backs and long pass plays to receivers, but the middle pass game is non-existent. When this team needs to convert a 3rd and 4 we seem to have plays that go for 12 or 2, never 4 or 5.
This year’s play-calling has been the worst of the Fleck tenure, maybe a close 2nd to the Mike Sanford season. To their credit, it was much better in the 2nd half than in the 1st, but our overall offensive philosphy has a long way to go.
And lastly, I have serious concerns about Athan Kaliakmanis.
I FIRMLY believe that the single more important attribute you need from a quarterback is accuracy. Followed closely by being able to read a defense and know where to throw the ball. Arm-strenght, a pretty ball, great mobility...all are great to have, but accuracy matters most.
I will say that his ability to read a defense is not a glaring weakness, it’s really undetermined yet. But accuracy is a major issue for Kaliakmanis and it was on full display in Iowa City.
It is apparent in every game. The open receiver is often the one getting the pass, but the accuracy to put the ball where it can be caught is missing. This is a concern and it needs to be fixed. My question is, can you fix accuracy?
The defense has had some pretty serious issues this year too. Other than the bad penalties that led to Iowa’s only touchdown, they were mitigated this week, so they are not getting picked on today.
Again, a win is a win and I really shouldn’t be complaining. But I’m looking ahead to the rest of this season, and into next. These are things that are deeply concerning if we want to see this team have success in their final 5 or 6 games.
I have always been viewing this season as one where many key players are gaining experience to have great success in 2024, while still being a good team this year. Maybe the bye week has helped to move that along and you’ll begin to see improvements now that are going to pay huge dividends next year.
After the game PJ Fleck had this to say about how his team won this rivalry game.
“What you saw tonight was our experienced players showing up. And our young players growing up.”
This is the right formula. Hats off to this team! They made more plays than Iowa, the defense was outstanding and Kesich scored a lot of points for us.
I am so happy for this staff and the older players on the roster. Tyler Nubin seemed to really enjoy this one and (Dr.) Chris Autman-Bell soaked it all in.
The moments you stick around for. pic.twitter.com/LQQJfhqZ9E— Minnesota Football (@GopherFootball) October 22, 2023
So glad to have Floyd back in Minnesota and cannot wait to see him at the fair next year.
One more thing...
The illegale fair catch signal was 100% the right call.
Any waving of your arm constitutes an illegal fair catch signal and that is 100% reviewable. This is not even questionable.
An example where play was not initially blown dead for an invalid fair catch signal? 11/21/2015 - Northwestern @ Wisconsin.— Daniel House (@DanielHouseMN) October 23, 2023
Badgers WR Alex Erickson returned this punt for a TD, but an invalid fair catch was called. Video: BTN. pic.twitter.com/eytXP60i6m