Saturday, November 14, 2009

Late Field Goal Prevents Complete Embarrassment

The Gopher football team defeated South Dakota State on Saturday. But then again, they were supposed to do this, so it's not newsworthy that the Gophers won. How they won deserves some scrutiny and will fuel the angst of Gopher Nation for the entire week leading up to next weekend's season finale against Iowa.

Eric Ellestad's field goal with 2:22 remaining in the fourth quarter gave the Gophers a 16-13 lead, and they stopped SDSU on four consecutive downs on the ensuing possession to preserve the victory. Still, a crowd which huddled together seemingly intent to boo at the slightest provocation was not impressed - nor should they have been.

Consider the following:
  • 231 total offensive yards against a FCS (formerly 1-AA) team
  • 3-16 on third downs
  • Gopher QB Adam Weber was 10-21 for a paltry 94 yards, no TDs, and one pick which was returned for a TD by South Dakota State. He threw a pick which went the other way last weekend against Illinois as well
  • The game featured no offensive touchdowns from either side - first time since 1964 that this has occurred
  • The offensive line allowed four sacks to SDSU on Saturday
  • The special teams allowed SDSU an average of 37 yards on kickoff returns and 14 yards on punt returns, including one long return in each situation
The offense is struggling to put it mildly. The Gophers ranked 106th of 120 FBS teams going into the game, and that will drop after Saturday's performance. Adam Weber was bad again on Saturday, but not all blame needs to be put his way. The offensive line play was putrid on Saturday and was so last weekend in the loss to Illinois. Weber did not help his cause by his indecisions, his short-hopping of receivers, and certainly by his pick-six to SDSU's Derek Domino which was returned 22 yards to give the Jackrabbits a 10-6 lead in the second quarter.

On the positive side of the ledger - and it's all defense-related:
  • Held SDSU to 229 total yards, including just 46 net rushing yards
  • Michael Carter's sack of South Dakota State QB Thomas O'Brien led to a fumble, which was returned by D.L. Willhite to put the Gophers back on top in the second quarter
  • Held SDSU to 3-16 on third down
  • Forced three turnovers
The defense performed as should have been expected against inferior competition. The offense, on the other hand, dipped to the level of competition. Simply put, Jedd Fisch's offensive unit is really reeling right now. One can easily blame the loss of WR Eric Decker, and his loss cannot be discounted. However, they were struggling with Decker in the lineup. Fisch has not been able to get a cohesiveness of his charges all season long and it has shown up in the scoresheet.

Coach Tim Brewster will catch his share of heat this week in the lead-up to Iowa. The Gophers should have defeated the Jackrabbits by two touchdowns, given the way SDSU played offensively. The critics will point to this game and make comparisons to the games against North Dakota State in 2006 and 2007, and they won't be happy about having to squeak out a win at home against the Jackrabbits. They also will point to how the Gophers should have defeated Illinois a week prior instead of being in their current predicament. Illinois was defeated by Northwestern on Saturday and is now 2-6 in the league. If the Gophers had played a complete game against the Illini, they'd be heading into Iowa at 7-4 and have their sights set on a much better bowl game than the one currently staring at them.

The Gophers are now 6-5 and are bowl-eligible heading into the season finale with Iowa. The Hawkeyes will face the Gophers with a backup QB under center and no chance at the Big Ten title after losing to Ohio State on Saturday. The Gophers should theoretically be up for this game. If they need any sort of motivation, keep the following two points in mind.
  1. The Gophers should be looking to avenge last season's 55-0 thrashing in the last Gopher football game played under the Metrodome
  2. A win at Iowa City next weekend will likely keep the Gophers out of any bowl game played in the city of Detroit.


  1. You gotta lose your mind in Detroit Rock City.

    Can you say Pizza-Pizza!

  2. I appreciate your collumn, Brian. Those kids played their hearts out against a very good Jackrabbits football team. I'm very proud of the fortitude of Adam Weber. I can't wait to see Gopher Nation taking over the great city of Detroit next month.