The Gophers played a similar game against Michigan State on Saturday, eerily similar to last week’s loss to Wisconsin. Like the Wisconsin game, the Gophers had a difficult time finishing drives on offense. In both games the Gophers had opportunities to score and failed to capitalize after moving the ball effectively on the ground. The Gophers haven’t been able to throw the ball with any success, which is a bit worrisome, especially with a possible concussion to sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson. The defense on the other hand was very good again, and has emerged as one of the best in the conference.
It’s hard to believe that this was the last regular season game of the year. Now the Gophers will start preparing for their bowl game. The destination is still up in the air, but a return trip to the Texas Bowl (formerly the Meineke Car Care Bowl) in Houston is looking more and more likely.
WHAT I LIKED
David Cobb running his butt off: Forget the fact that Cobb became the Gophers first 1,000 yard rusher since 2006. What impresses me the most about Cobb is how hard he runs. That man is earning his scholarship. He earned every inch of his 101 yards against the Spartans. I wonder how different the Minnesota offense would have looked if Cobb hadn’t become the starting tailback as he has been the key to this offense for most of the year.
The defense: Not only is this defense solid statistically, it’s a physically tough group that doesn’t back down. I’ve seen far too many Minnesota defenses in my lifetime curl up into the fetal position after giving up a touchdown on the opening drive. This year’s defense is an exception.
Donovahn Jones and Drew Wolitarsky: The duo are only true freshmen. Give these two a summer to work with Nelson, Leidner, and fellow freshman quarterback Chris Streveler and the Gophers may have something in the future. The key will be to develop chemistry over the offseason and even during bowl practices. The future looks bright at wide receiver, despite poor results this year. The two showed what they can do when they made some nice catches against Michigan State.
Damien Wilson and De’Vondre Campbell: Campbell intercepted a pass to prevent a Spartans touchdown to end the half and Wilson made several spectacular open field tackles. These two look like All Big Ten candidates for 2014.
Gophers finishing with its best season since 2003: It’s been a decade since Minnesota last won eight games. Despite two losses to close out the Big Ten season, you have to feel good about the status of the program right now.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
The feeling that the Gophers weren’t going to win: I felt this way the entire game, even when the Gophers were knocking on the doorstep late in the first half. Nelson had Drew Goodger wide open in the end zone on a third and goal play, but the pass was batted down by Michigan State defensive tackle Mark Scarpinato — that would have tied the game at seven. Instead, the Gophers kicked a field goal and never recovered on its way to a 14-3 loss.
The passing game: Nelson suffered a possible concussion and Leidner replaced him. Both quarterbacks struggled, combining to hit on just 9-of-25 passes for 125 yards and two interceptions. Both interceptions were thrown by Nelson. The passing game misses Derrick Engel more than I had anticipated. Minnesota’s leading receivers were Wolitarsky and Jones, who had 56 yards and 47 yards, respectively.
Turnovers: Has anyone seen the movie Sandlot? Every time the Gophers turned the ball over, I found myself saying “you’re killing me Smalls!”
Injuries to secondary: The Gophers have already lost their top corner in Briean Boddy-Calhoun and now senior cornerback/safety/Mr. Do Everything Brock Vereen has injuired his shoulder. He was replaced by Derrick Wells in the second half but he has also been battling his own injuries all season.
The fact that it was the last game of the regular season: This made me sad. I know we still have a bowl game to look forward to, but I don’t know if I can stomach not having Gopher football to look forward to every Saturday until next September.