Before we get started, I have a few links of differing levels of interest. The first comes to us from Blair Kirkhoff of the KC Star. Many moons ago I read this article and decided to store it in my digital notebook for the opportune time. After four humbling defeats and calls for Eberflus' head, now seems ideal.
Secondly, we have a couple Minnesota links for you. The first, which you may want to check periodically for the next few weeks, is the resident Minnesota blog, The Daily Gopher. Interestingly, I was perusing the blog and actually took a link to a Kansas blog, VraniFieldhouse. It's not entirely Kansas, but from the looks of it, that's the primary concentration. Here's their piece on why Kansas Will Blast Minnesota. And lastly, a piece from the Pioneer Press that discusses how the Gophers are planning to change their offense prior to the Insight Bowl. And no, I can't type or say the word gopher and think of anything aside from Carl Spackler and Caddyshack.
With that out of the way, I do have an actual post for you today. I wanted to do one on the league's current status on the hardwood. But since I've only watched roughly half the teams and not even yet seen Baylor (that Wazzu win is impressive, though) I thought I better hold off or risk coming off as your typical uniformed, box score "analyst." Instead, I decided to keep with the spirit of the season, which, despite the large hiatus, technically still belongs to football. With that, I think it's time to take our first gander at the Gophers. Off topic, but I can't help but wish this bowl were still called the Copper rather than Insight. I don't know why. Moving on...
QB – Adam Weber. 63% completion. 2585 yards (6.9/attempt). 14 TDs and 8 INTS. He's also carried 115 times for 202 yards (1.8 per) and 4 TDs and was sacked a Big 11 most 28 times. Speaking of how he fared within his conference, it's worth noting that the 63% led the league. His 2585 yards was second to Juice Williams while the 14 TDs were good for third. It's also worth noting that in the Big XII his completion % would have been good for ninth. His yardage also ninth. And his TDs would be 13th. So while I don't want to take away from what Tim Brewster has done and I really don't want to underestimate the Gophers, it's pretty safe to say that despite the relative success they had with the spread in the Big 11, we've seen offenses that are slightly more potent.
Truth be told, I haven't seen this guy play nearly enough to have a real idea of what he likes to do. I'm under the impression that he's somewhat of a playmaker and given his completion percentage, he seems to be pretty accurate. As is the case against any spread offense, the primary key will be messing up timing and if possible, getting pressure. Do those two things, or even one, and we're likely to limit their offensive success.
RB – DeLeon Eskridge. Gotta love that name. 170 carries for 652 yards (3.8 per) and 7 TDs. He also has 28 catches for 181 yards. Again, I don't know nearly enough about him or his team to accurately assess what he does for them. But it's safe to say that running the ball isn't really their forte as he is far and away the leader in both yards and attempts. The entire team only has 1,270 yards (3.2 per) and 18 TDs on the ground for the year. And his 170 carries average out to just over 14/game with him only going over 20 three times.
WR/TE – Eric Decker. We'll touch on a couple others below, but seeing as how he has 45 more catches than his closest teammate it's a safe assumption that he's the primary target. His stats: 76 grabs for 925 yards and 6 TDs - all of which would rank behind both Dez and Kerry – yet were good enough for 1st, 2nd, & 2nd respectively, within his entire league. Again, I'm not taking away from what he did, but it just goes to show you what kind of offenses we've been facing off against when he's first team all-conference and yet on stats alone he'd be no better than our #3 receiver.
Whereas Decker is a clear #1, it doesn't look like Weber has a definitive second option. Ben Kuznia and Jack Simmons are next in line by number of receptions with 31 & 32, respectively. Keeping with their similarities, Kuznia had 310 yards (0 TDs) and Simmons 300 (2 TDs). Eskridge is next with his 28, with Brandon Green (18-260-1), Nick Tow-Arnett (10-211-1) & Duane Bennett (12-125-1) rounding out those with double digit catches.
Long story short, Decker has caught about 32% of Weber's completions, he accounts for over 36% of their receiving yards, and he's scored 43% of their passing touchdowns. I'm sure that shutting him down is no easy task, but if accomplished, you've effectively stopped the Gopher offense. It's also worth noting that after tearing it up early - 469 of his yards (51%) came against Montana State, FAU, & Indiana - in the last 3 games combined (all losses) he had 3 catches for 30 yards and 0 TDs and Minnesota scored 6, 32, and 0 in these games. Maybe he was hurt (anyone know?), but if not then I think the template has been set.
I'd love to analyze their offensive linemen, but I have nothing of substance to say. Like I said, I've watched them a few times, but never closely enough to really see how their line works or even if anyone in particular stands out (for good or bad). But I do know that their offense ranks 91st nationally (322/game) - rushing is 104th (106) & passing 57th (216) – against what is generously listed as the 77th toughest schedule in the nation despite seeing only 1 ranked team along the way (Ohio State) with Iowa & Northwestern a distant 2nd & 3rd. Take from that what you will, but I'm inclined to believe that if they can't run the ball and they allowed a conference worst 28 sacks then the offensive line is not exactly their best asset and truthfully, it just might be their weakest.
More to come later, but this should be enough to whet your appetite for the time being. After all the only good varmint poontang is dead varmint poontang.