Before watching a movie at Larson Football Performance Center, they describe the zipper of figurative “leather vests” to protect against constructive, if biting, criticism – the rash, if you will – that comes from the exam. of their many mistakes.
After Minnesota’s 14-10 loss to Bowling Green on Saturday, everyone involved in the Minnesota passing game should instead wear head-to-toe hazmat suits. Losing to a struggling opponent picked to finish last in the Mid-American Conference and making him as a 31-point favorite, the Gophers program must clean up a toxic spill. Coaches included.
Minnesota’s passing game sits very close to the bottom of college football in terms of total yards, touchdowns, completion percentage and attempts. Of the 130 FBS programs, they are outside the top 115 in each category, and in some categories only seemingly unfavorable military academies are worse.
Gopher’s assists lagged in the first three games, but came in handy in the season opener against Ohio State and led the running game as well as the defense against Miami (Ohio) and Colorado for win back-to-back victories.
There was a whiplash from the top of the shutout victory in Boulder at the bottom of the boos heard in the return game against visiting Bowling Green.
(Meanwhile, a glance at the stats shows the Buffaloes are also among the worst pass offenses in the country, so the U shutout last week might not be that strong.)
Head coach PJ Fleck was asked what was wrong with the passing game. “Everything,” he replied before pausing.
“Do you want me to be more specific?” Pass protection, quarterback, tight play, throwing and catching the soccer ball. That sums it all up. ”
With the loss of top running back Mo Ibrahim, the strength of Minnesota’s offense was supposed to be the combined 200 or so starts of its linemen. But they couldn’t handle the Bowling Green blitzes and stunts.
Quarterback Tanner Morgan’s hard day was almost over when he was lit by Davon Ferguson in a cornerback blitz in the second quarter. With half time to adjust, Ferguson, a transfer from Kansas, got his second sack on the same blitz across the field in the fourth quarter.
Attacking Gophers leaders – Fleck, Morgan and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford Jr. – have attributed their below-par 2020 season to pandemic interruptions. They don’t have that explanation / excuse now and have to think about solutions with eight Big Ten games remaining this season.
The Gophers came into Saturday’s game running the ball nearly 72 percent of offensive plays, and that number has actually increased. Fleck embraces his desire to run the ball and pass it. Second-year offensive coordinator Sanford Jr. calls the games into general safeguards established by Fleck.
On Saturday, the U trailed throughout the second half, but Minnesota called 25 games in total (11 runs, 14 assists). As they trailed, they called 21 games (13 runs, eight assists). This is not a typical scenario for a team that has to come back from behind to win.
Minnesota lost top receiver Chris Autman-Bell in the first series on Saturday. Without him, the most inexperienced offensive position group hasn’t done enough in his absence for three games now.
Before Bowling Green, Fleck was asked about having better run-pass balance. “We are going to take what the defense gives us,” he said. âIf we have to throw the ball 11 times per game, we’ll throw it 11 times per game. If we have to throw the ball 35 times, we’ll throw it 35 times.
âWe want to be as balanced as possible,â continued Fleck. “Some people think the balance is being 50/50, but that’s doing what you need to do to win the football game.”
Morgan attempted just 13 passes on Saturday, completing five for 59 yards. Many high school programs in Minnesota probably did more than that on Friday night.
When the Gophers needed a touchdown in the fourth quarter, they didn’t throw it abundantly, much less freely. There were five designed runs, a scramble from Morgan with no one open, an incomplete on the low but catchable ball from Morgan to Mike Brown-Stephens and a broken pass from the Falcons defensive lineman on the third down. .
The Gophers then kicked – and the boos fell. The next two shots resulted in interceptions.
The U’s two best second-half offensive plays have come down to the floor – the 19-yard touchdown run from QB Cole Kramer and Trey Potts making an impressive cut on a 54-yard gain. The U offense did not do what it had to do to win the game.
âWe’re talking about being the reason (of success) at quarterback and (Saturday) I was the opposite of reason,â Morgan said. “It’s 100% on me, and now I have to respond better than I ever did.”
It looked like someone preparing to arm themselves with something stronger than a figurative leather vest.