The Gophers took care of business in Las Cruces, N.M. as they should have. If you remember from last year, the Gophers dropped a series with North Carolina, much to the dismay of many Gopher fans, and replaced the trip to Chapel Hill with this trip to New Mexico. A loss would not have only been a huge hit to Minnesota’s bowl hopes, but also an unimaginable hit to the team’s reputation.
Thankfully, the game was never in doubt for the Gophers as they rediscovered their ground game, rushing for more than 300 yards for the first time since 2007 despite the fact they were missing their top two running backs, Donnell Kirkwood and Berkley Edwards, to ankle injuries.
There was a lot to like from Saturday night’s performance in the desert — and also some things not to like. Let’s take a look.
Five Things I Liked:
1. The running game: Rodrick Williams ran 16 times for 148 yards and a score, Philip Nelson ran 15 times for 122 yards and a score, and David Cobb ran nine times for 56 yards and a score. Cobb’s touchdown was the most impressive, bouncing off several would-be tacklers before scampering for a 14 yard touchdown. Unlike the UNLV game, the Gophers were seemingly able to run at will.
2. Marcus Jones: How impressive is this kid? To come back from two major knee surgeries and return a kick and a punt for touchdowns in back-to-back weeks is just fantastic.
3. Maxx Williams: Another impressive young man. Williams was a quarterback at Waconia High School. Now he looks to be a future All Big Ten tight end. Maxx made two spectacular catches in this game and if the Minnesota offense were more pass heavy, there’s not a doubt in my mind he would be a Mackey Award candidate. He’s that good.
4. Chris Hawthorne: Hawthorne drilled all three of his field goals including a 45 yarder that had room to spare.
5. The play of the linebackers: De’Vondre Campbell and Damien Wilson both tallied eight tackles and were seemingly all over the field. Wilson also tallied a sack.
Five Things I Didn’t Like:
1. Philip Nelson’s accuracy: Nelson is going to have to improve his accuracy for this offense to take the next step. He missed several throws badly. That can’t happen again in Big Ten play.
2. Injuries: Briean Boddy-Calhoun injured his knee against the Aggies and will be out for an unspecified amount of time. Derrick Wells returned to the field, but only recorded two tackles as he tried to shake off the rust from missing time recovering from an injury. Meanwhile, the Gophers’ top two running backs sat out nursing ankle injuries.
3. Wide receiver play: Maybe Nelson isn’t getting any help from the receivers? It’s not like the UNLV game last year where the receivers were wide open and MarQueis Gray was missing them by 10 feet. It doesn’t seem like the receivers are getting open at all for Nelson to throw to. To make things worse, Logan Hutton, KJ Maye, and Maxx Williams are tied for the team lead with … drum roll please … three catches!
4. Pass defense: I had high hopes for this group but injuries have prevented the secondary from shining. Giving up 239.5 passing yards per game to awful teams like UNLV and New Mexico State is discouraging.
5. AggieVision: It was awful! I felt like I was watching cable access television from the 70s. As my friend asked: “Is Wayne’s World on after this?” Also, why couldn’t the cameras follow the play? How many times was the ball carrier 20 yards down field before the camera realized where the action was?