Saturday, October 24, 2009

U-G-L-Y Second Half in Columbus for Gridders

The Minnesota Gopher football team's defense played reasonably well during the first half against Ohio State on Saturday. The team gave up a lot of yards, but managed to hold OSU to just seven points, thanks to a defensive secondary mix-up, and forced a key interception deep in their own territory to preserve the 7-0 deficit at halftime.

In the second half, the Gophers received the Ohio State kick, and return man Troy Stoudermire fumbled the pooch-kick. The Buckeyes recovered and began an avalanche of points as the Gophers were embarrassed in the second half in a 38-7 Ohio State victory.

Although the officiating was awful throughout (case in point, an OSU defender pushed a Minnesota receiver down and intercepted the ball in the same motion, right in front of an official) and the Gophers were often on the short end of these calls. Still, one cannot escape a review of the facts:
  • 509 yards allowed to the Big Ten's 10th-ranked offense
  • The Gophers were 1-10 on third down offensive chances; defensively, the Gophers allowed OSU to convert on 7-14
  • Ohio State rushed for 270 yards with two freshmen runners carrying the load in the second half
  • Eric Decker sprained an ankle in the first quarter and spent the second half on crutches
  • Adam Weber was awful again: 10-23 with 2 INTs
  • Five passes were dropped by the Gophers in the first half alone
  • In the first half, the Gophers had almost 60 yards in penalties
  • Minnesota turned the ball over four times (twice inside their own 20), which resulted in 24 Ohio State points
  • The Gophers have won only twice at Ohio State since World War II.

The Gophers were the perfect elixir for Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor's pains. The maligned sophomore rushed for a game-high 104 yards and a TD on 15 carries, and also was 13-25 for 239 yards passing the ball. He hit on two TDs against one interception, one week after throwing two INTs and losing two fumbles in a loss to Purdue.

Weber's struggles continued against the Buckeyes. His 10-23 performance for only 112 yards continues a string of three-consecutive sub-par games for the three-year starter. Yes, the Gopher receivers dropped five balls and Decker was not a factor due to injury. Yes, the offensive line protection was not great, again. However, the guy simply cannot make plays, as evidenced by the team's pathetic 1-10 third down conversion stats. The offense looked completely out of sync again on Saturday - against a great OSU defense, mind you.

MarQueis Gray did get more action in this game than any other previous one. The talented freshman rushed 11 times for 81 yards, and engineered the team's lone score at the end of the game, thanks in part to a 5-6, 51 yard performance throwing the ball. His 11-yard pass to Stoudermire was the team's first score in almost nine quarters and was the only protracted drive all day (7 plays, 78 yards).

This sets up an interesting decision for coach Tim Brewster. Clearly, the game was out of reach on the final drive, but the offense did move under Gray. The QB showed play-making ability most of the day and gave OSU a different look. Will Brewster finally bite the bullet and make the QB switch before next weekend's contest against Michigan State at TCF Bank Stadium? Or, will the Gophers continue to sink in quicksand with Weber?

Stay tuned.....

Coming up this week....Defending Tim Brewster. Get ready for this one - most likely up on Monday or Tuesday!

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