I have always enjoyed delivering news to people with a little, “I have some good news and some bad news.” Not sure that my kids really loved it when I’d say something like “Hey guys, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that we are going to go down to the toys. Bad news is that we are going to clean them up.”
I particularly liked this pic I saw the other day with the caption, “I have some good news and some bad news.”
As I was watching the Gophers run all over the field on Easter Michigan on Saturday night, and I was thinking about their first two games of the season, I couldn’t help be be torn between so many good news/bad news scenarios.
I really do not think we know what to expect with this team yet. I know we are only 2 games into the season, but there is still so much that is a work in progress.
Good News: The Gophers have won games through the air and on the ground.
Bad News: There really is no offensive identity.
Athan Kaliakmanis was asked to throw the ball 44 times in the Nebraska game and the offense managed to do just enough to come away with a season-opening win over a conference foe.
In week 2 it was an offense that ran the ball 56 times with ease and we saw the emergence of Darius Taylor as potentially the next great Gopher back.
But it really feels as though this offense is lacking any identity. There is always the notion of taking what the opposing defense is giving you. And this appears to be precisely what they were choosing to do against EMU. That Eagles defense could not stop the Gopher run game for 95 yards of the field, so why would you do anything besides continue to run the ball at nearly a 6-yard per carry average?
After week 1 PJ Flecked mentioned that we might have to be a team that uses the pass to set up the run. But week 2 was very much a running team that used the rush to set up the pass.
The goal is a balanced offense that can keep the defense on its heels by keeping them guessing as to what is coming next.
Good News: Against EMU the Gophers ran for 296 yards with the running backs averaging 5.7 yards per carry!
Bad News: Once the offense got inside the 5 they really struggled to move the ball and get into the end zone.
This was discussed among the blog staff throughout the game. On the one hand, you are absolutely dominating on the ground. Anytime you are rushing for over 5 yards per carry, you are going to win most games, usually scoring a lot of points. Time of possession for the Gophers was almost double EMU’s.
But holy cow did the offense struggle once it got inside the Eagle’s 10. Minnesota had 6 drives get inside the Eagle's 6-yard line. In fact, the only two drives that didn’t get that deep into EMU territory were because of turnovers.
For whatever reason, once that close to the goal line, the Gopher offense could not move the ball. I believe that there were 15 plays run from inside the opponent’s 10. On those 15 plays the Gopher offense averaged 1.7 yards per carry and were 0/3 passing. To be fair, 2 of those were for touchdowns. But that is not a great showing of force against an EMU front-seven that was overmatched all night.
Did the offensive line and the Gopher running game improve from game 1? Yes. Do they still have some issues to clean up? Yes!
Good News: Minnesota has some really nice, young playmakers emerging.
Bad News: They are very young and will need time to mature.
As was discussed before the season started, there were quite a number of starting positions that needed to be filled. And we have seen some nice things from a few players starting to emerge.
Taylor had a huge game in just his second as a collegiate football player. There has been great anticipating and excitement over Taylor going back to his senior season (last fall) when he started the season with over 1,470 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns in the first 5 games! It seems very likely that he will be getting the bulk of the carries moving forward after showing that he can get some tough yards and also the ability to make would-be-tacklers miss.
Kaliakmanis is also not a surprising name to be mentioned here. Now a redshirt sophomore, but he is beginning to look more comfortable leading the Gopher offense, but he is also showing that he can make big plays. This kid has a cannon for an arm to go along with great athleticism. Also, consistency has been an issue. There were some pretty big misses in that Nebraska game
Maverick Baranowski has been taking advantage of his opportunity to play so far this year and the redshirt freshman has been making some plays. He is leading the team in tackles to go with a sack and a pass breakup. Also...he’s missed a few tackles (one key missed tackle in the Nebraska game comes to mind). This is a young defensive player who is getting used to the speed of the game. Taking slightly wrong angles or thinking just a little too much leads to missed tackles, this kid is going to be a stud.
Darius Green, Devon Williams and Deven Eastern are 3 redshirt sophomores on defense who are all getting a lot of quality reps, occasionally making some plays.
Good News: The Gophers are 2-0 to start the season.
Bad News: They have not yet played anybody yet.
There was anticipation that Nebraska would be better under their new coaching staff. Or at least they’d be more disciplined and fundamentally sound. That appears to not really be the case.
Then Eastern Michigan is very likely our weakest opponent on the schedule (pending Northwestern).
So neither of these wins are terribly impressive on paper, and neither was really the type of win that should indicate that this team is ready for a step up in competition (which is coming this week).
But this is really just plain good news. Winning any game is still a win and the Gophers are 2-0. Perhaps the bad news is that we are going on the road to face a good North Carolina team.
Bad News: There are a lot of things yet to be corrected.
Good News: This staff has a history of getting their teams better and better throughout the season.
Sometimes it makes more sense to swap so the bad news comes first. This team has a lot to clean up, especially if they want to compete with North Carolina or the rest of the Big Ten West.
Let’s face it, this may be the weakest Big Ten West we have seen since Legends and Leaders ceased to exist. The division is there to be had, but the Gophers have a lot of work to do to continue to get better.
It is increasingly looking like that 10/21 game at Iowa is going to be a big one for determining the Big Ten West champ. Can this team work out the kinks in time for that game in Iowa City?