Golden Gophers Football: Demry Croft Should Play More, And Earlier, Going Forward


Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

After mostly struggling offensively in their first five games, a stretch that reached a low-point with a shut out loss to Northwestern, the Minnesota Golden Gophers found their formula for success against Purdue.

The 326 rushing yards they had in a 41-13 win on Saturday was the most the Golden Gophers have had in a Big Ten game since 2005, and freshman tailback Shannon Brooks led the way with 176 yards (including a 71-yard touchdown run) on 17 carries.

More importantly, quarterback Mitch Leidner had an efficient performance against Purdue. He went 8-for-12 for 59 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, along with a rushing touchdown and a reception on a trick play. The Minnesota offensive line played better all-around, as some pieces returned from injury while others sat out, but it’s clear a shift in offensive philosophy has rightfully taken place with impact of the quarterback as a passer greatly minimized.

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Freshman quarterback Demry Croft has seen action in each of the last two games, with the result not in doubt in either case. He clearly has a long way to go as a passer, going 7-for-16 for 34 yards combined against Northwestern and Purdue, but Croft has shown some ability as a runner with long runs of 11 yards against Northwestern and 34 yards against Purdue.

I know the schedule now gets tougher for the Golden Gophers, but what they need to do to succeed offensively is clear. Leidner finds his way into the end zone as a runner about every other game, but in terms of yardage production he’s not doing much so far this season. Croft would offer some spark as a runner and provide an element defenses have to account for, and as he gains experience he can’t be any worse as a passer than Leidner has mostly been through six games.

Croft should see action before the fourth quarter next Saturday against Nebraska. Leidner will surely start, but even if it’s a close contest it’s not guaranteed he will be the quarterback that finishes the game.

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