Saturday, October 13, 2007

Minnesota v. Northwestern Game Thread

For the first time in two or so weeks I'm here, on the trusty couch, ready to take in a Gophers football game. I'll be updating this post with my thoughts throughout the game.

I don't think we match up well against Northwestern defensively. Teams that have run a spread set against the Gophers this year have done so with ease. Offensively, I think the Gophers will be able to move the football as they've been able to do for most of the year. But I'm not predicting a win, because I think it's rather simple: The Gophers offense will stop itself more times than the Northwestern offense will.

First Half:

** The Gophers force a punt and have a chance to grab the momentum early in Evanston. This is where I'd like to see the lads take control on the ground, chew up clock, keep the WIldcats offense off the field, and keep the pressure off of Adam Weber. We'll see.

** Well, that didn't work out. The Gophers go to the air and eventually punt while the Wildcats go 67 yards for 7. I don't have much faith in our defense shutting down the Wildcats, so we need a competent offensive possession here so we don't fall behind huge in the first half as we are wont to do.

** Mike Dunbar's insistence on throwing the ball every down is getting tiresome. Even the Big Ten Network announcers are criticising him for it. The Gophers punt again after Weber can't hook up on a couple deep routes. You can't blame Weber for this. Our opponents know we have been a pass-always team most of the year. Dunbar needs to run a little to set up the pass.

** The Gophers get great field position and get the ball down to the one yard line, where the spread offense fails the lads. THis has been a problem I've seen all season. When the Gophers need one tough yard, they abandon the spread and line up with two tight ends with Weber under center to pound the ball. Inevitably, the Gophers can't get that yard, in part because they aren't used to running the ball in that manner. The Gophers fail on fourth down and give the ball back to the Wildcats without scoring. Too bad.

** Good news! It's nearing halftime and the Gophers have given up just 7 points and they have just tied the game on a wide receiver screen from Weber to Sherels. Minnesota 7, Northwestern 7. Take that, Lake the Posts!

Wow. More good news. Adam Weber is now 12-16 and hooked up on a 60-yard completion. Amir Pinnix finishes off the drive and the Gophers--while I'd still like to see them run a bit more to balance out the passing--lead 14-7.

** Oh well. I was hoping the Gophers would go into the locker room up 7, but instead the Wildcats drove down the field through the air. Six plays, 73 yards in 1:27. The good news is the Gophers have 1:23 to do something here. Even 3 points would be great. Minnesota 14, NW 14.

** Now, that was an answer. The Gophers march down the field and Weber hooks up with Ernie Wheelright for 6 with 2 seconds left. Wheelright laid out very nicely for the ball. The Gophers go into halftime with the clear momentum and will get the ball coming out in the second half. Minnesota 21, NW 14. Great drive. 8 plays 65 yards in less than 2 minutes. Kudos to Weber.

Second Half

The Gophers proved again they can move the ball efficiently in the second half. This time they were aided by a questionable coaching decision by Northwestern to try an onside kick to start the second half. The ball goes out of bounds and Weber quickly moves the ball down the field, eventually hooking up with Eric Decker for 6. The drive took less than one minute off the clock. Minnesota 28, NW, 14. Now the hard part for Minnesota. Holding a lead.

** Weber continues to look extremely impressive after a lackadasical start in the first couple drives. Gophers are now up 35-14. I think we'd have the do some serious channeling of Glen Mason to lose this one.

** Well, if there is a way to let the lead go away, the Gophers may have found it. Mike Dunbar started the most recent drive burning clock, but then decided to go for the jugular after a near turnover and Weber throws his first pick of the game. There is a fine line between going too conservative and being too agressive with a lead. Hopefully from here on out, the GOphers will find that line. The Wildcats quickly capitalize on the turnover to get back into the game. Minnesota 35, NW 21.

** Oh, shit. Another pick.

** Well, there goes that three score cushion, and it really didn't take that long. The Wildcats score again off of a turnover and are now down 35-28. My guess now is that Dunbar will get ultra conservative and the Gophers will punt.

** Mike Dunbar is soooo predictable. After predictably passing the entire first quarter, he now completely abandonded the pass on the most recent possession. After going up by 21, the Gophers have done absolutely nothing on offense, with two interceptions and a quick punt.

** Six minutes left, Gophers 1st and 10 on their 40. The Extreme Schemer, or 'theextremeidiot' according to one commenter below, needs to get the Gophers at least three in this posession.

** Dunbar did as I had hoped and put the Gophers in position to go up 10, but the kick is wide right. Now, the WIldcats have the ball and Steve Davis just got flagged for roughing the passer. I don't like the call, but as Mike Tomczak is saying, you don't want to put the referees in that type of situation. After a 20 yard completion, the Wildcats are in business on our 33.

** The Gophers force a 4th and Goal, and predictably, give up a touchdown. The momentum is now clearly in Northwestern's favor, having scored 21 unanswered to force overtime. I was thinking Brewster was going to get his first Big Ten win on the road. Now it's looking doubtful. Minnesota 35, NW 35


The Gophers get off to a good start in overtime, as Weber hooks up with Wheelright, who makes a nice diving catch for his third score of the game. Whellright has shown today why he can be a difference maker. Now the defense should be less sieve like and make his effort worth something. Weber has 5 TDs today, and has been quite impressive, sans those two picks. Minnesota 42, NW 35

Great play by Dominique Barber breaking up a would-be touchdown on a trick play by Northwestern.

The Gophers foce another 4th down play. A stop wins it. But it's not to be. The Gophers put pressure on CJ Bacher, but the Wildcats convert inside the 10. And then Bacher hits Ross Lane for 6. The extra point ties it again. The Gophers are making a habit today of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Minnesota 42, NW 42.

** It was the Wildcats who were scheming on this posession, as they relatively easily take their first lead since the first half. The defense continues to help Weber and the offense none. Wildcats 49, Minnesota 42.

** The Gophers, with the help of a fourth down conversion and a nice run by Jay Thomas and a nice option keeper by Adam Weber, get within one. Now Brewster is going for two. Uh-oh. Dunbar rolled Weber out, who couldn't find anybody and eventually throws the ball away instead of getting sacked. Gophers lose. 49-48.

Final Thoughts: I liked the call to go for two at the end, though I'm not sure I liked the idea of rolling Weber out away from the pocket. The Wildcats hadn't put much pressure on Weber all game. Rolling him out allowed the 'Cats to put pressure on Weber. Overall, I really liked the way Weber played today. Anytime a freshman quarterback throws 5 TDs and scores 35 points in regulation, you should win. As usual, the Gophers defense was our achilles heel.


Anonymous said...

PJS, I agree with you on the Gophers when they are under center. This season though is all but over, from here on out it's about watching Weber improve.

Tom said...

and Cooley, Bennett, Spry, Fatty Thomas, Herndon, Howell, etc.

Gopher Nation

TheExtremeIdiot said...

Mike Dunbar is going to give this game away.

Matt said...

They missed the FG. I can feel the game slipping away. This is a familiar feeling.

PJS said...

I think you might be right, Matt. It'd be nice if our defense could come up with a big play--sack, forced fumble or pick to end it.