Friday, January 1, 2010

More Insight Bowl Disappointment for Gophers

The Gopher football team should really just refuse invitations to the Insight Bowl in future seasons.

Minnesota lost in the Insight Bowl for the third time in four seasons, losing to Iowa State 14-13. Coach Tim Brewster's third seasons ends with a 6-7 mark.

Despite rolling up 434 yards of total offense, the Gophers could manage just 13 points in the game. The culprits for this disconnect include:
  • A costly interception thrown by QB Adam Weber
  • A crucial lost fumble by Mar'Queis Gray late in the fourth quarter when the Gophers looked to be marching in ISU territory for a potential lead
  • 2-12 on third down attempts
  • A missed field goal by Eric Ellestad
ISU took the opening kick and marched down the field against the Gopher defense, only to see its drive stall in Minnesota territory as the Gophers stopped the Cyclones on fourth down. Weber led his team down the field on the next possession, highlighted by a 41-yard completion to D'Jon McKnight, and Ellestad booted a 36-yard field goal to give the Gophers the lead.

ISU scored the game's next 14 points and took a 14-3 lead into the locker room against a listless Minnesota offense. The Gophers moved the ball better in the third quarter, and were able to capitalize on a 23-yard TD strike to TE Nick Tow-Arnett. Ellestad's second field goal made the score 14-13 late in the third quarter.

The game turned against the Gophers in the fourth after the defense stuffed Iowa State and forced the Cyclones to punt. Gray had a fine run up the middle to put the ball into ISU territory, but later fumbled at the Iowa State 15 yard line with just over four minutes remaining to seal the game. The Cyclones won to improve to 7-6 in coach Paul Rhoads' first season at the helm in Ames.

McKnight had a career day receiving for the Gophers, catching seven passes for 124 yards. Weber was erratic again, and was 18-32 for 261 yards and a TD, and also tossed a pick. The Gophers' leading rusher was DeLeon Eskridge (13 carries for 50 yards), but Gray (3 for 34) and Kevin Whaley (11 for 42) also saw significant action.

The defense held Iowa State to 14 points, but surrendered 428 yards. They forced four turnovers in the game: two interceptions of QB Austin Arnaud and two fumble recoveries. RB Alexander Robinson had a fine day on the ground, carrying the ball 22 times for 137 yards. Arnaud had those two picks, but was efficient otherwise, completing 19 of 26 passes for 216 yards and a TD.

The Gophers missed several opportunities in the game, which was seemingly the story of 2009 in a nutshell. This game was one of two which were truly "bad" losses - Illinois was the other. The Gophers had more talent than both Illinois and Iowa State, and an 8-5 finish sure is better than 6-7. 

The post-mortem for the 2009 football season will come sometime next week, and I'll deliberate as to whether or not this team showed progress over last year's team. In the interim, Gopher fans everywhere will sit back and wonder what may have been for this squad in 2009, and certainly at the Insight Bowl. 

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