You always miss a few things in person, so of course a re-viewing was necessary. In doing so, I had some thoughts. Here they are…
With this type of hardware as motivation, losing was simply not an option.
On the opening play of the game, Dezmon Briscoe did a wonderful job of breaking off his route to help Todd out.
Eric Decker is a really good receiver, but that first play from scrimmage was nothing more than a product of this being Kendrick Harper’s first game action in months. And of course his lack of speed in general. Here’s to hoping Justin Thornton is done breaking team rules and will be available for all fourteen games next season.
In re-watching their first two drives, I’m reminded of how shocked/scared I was to see Minnesota running all over us. I went into this game thinking we wouldn’t have a problem stopping this and that their passing game simply wasn’t explosive or consistent enough to keep up; and thus a win would result. When that wasn’t happening, nerves kicked in and I think Clint Bowen deserves a lot of credit for adjusting and basically shutting them down the rest of the game - as they would go scoreless until the fourth quarter.
On that last note, I’d also like to give credit to Joe & Mike for ending their careers on a very high note with 13 & 14 tackles, respectively. Many have criticized them throughout the year for not playing as well as they did a year ago, but as we’ve said many times before – their production was simply a result of the type of offenses we faced. If you need to stop the run, there aren’t too many better in the league. The pass is another story, and unfortunately we played several of the most prolific passing teams in the country this season. It’s as simple as that, folks.
After leading the team in receptions two straight years I never thought I’d say this, but we really aren’t going to miss Dexton Fields. I’m not sure if it was the time he missed from injury or what, but he just hasn’t been the same guy. There’s also the little fact that we had two other guys with 90+ catches and 1000+ yards.
Quick note: Todd is a badass. He took one hell of a shot from Hightower at about the 12 minute mark of the second quarter and it didn’t seem to phase him one bit. A night after Zac Robinson took the same kind of hit and pretty much assumed the fetal position the rest of the night, Todd simply shook it off and continued carving up the Minnesota defense.
Nothing we didn’t know already, but Dezmon Briscoe simply abused the Minnesota secondary. Why any defensive coordinator would ever try and cover him one-on-one is beyond me. Even in the Big XII, I still think he was snubbed in not getting first team recognition this year. He finished his season with 92 catches (4th behind Maclin, Crabtree & Meier), 1407 yards (2nd to Bryant), and 15 TDs (2nd behind Bryant & Crabtree). How naïve and/or spoiled are we being to think that there is room for improvement next year?
QB stats with 55 seconds remaining in the first half…
Weber: 3/6 for 50 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTS
Reesing: 19/22 for 221 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs
Daymond Patterson has become a really good corner. When we first made the move for the Tech game I hated it from every angle. Bad timing. Reeked of desperation. And aside from his speed, I just wasn’t sure he had the size to match-up with so many big receivers. Beyond all that, I still liked his potential as a receiver, so it just seemed like an attempt at a quick-fix. Now, I just think it was bad timing. At first he just had the speed and hips to stay with guys; now he looks like an actual corner – handing off to the safety in zone, timing his breaks, and playing taller than he is by going after the ball at its highest point. I just can’t say enough about the strides he’s made in such a short time.
It wasn’t quite as highlight worthy as some others, but there may not have been a prettier play than Meier’s 31 yard sideline catch in the 3rd quarter. Beautiful pass. Even better catch. And a simply gorgeous block by Cantrell in which he de-cleated VanDeSteeg, giving Todd the space to step into his throw. You can’t draw it up any better than that.
Quick aside: I really like Adam Weber as a Big 10 quarterback. Listed at 6’3” 220 he looks every bit of it in person and I was really surprised with both his speed and toughness in the running game. And while he doesn’t have Big XII type accuracy, he also doesn’t have a Big XII offense. Only a sophomore, he’s sure to get better and will be a great guy to have under center the next two years. And if they’re able to develop proper balance, they’ll take the next step.
Quick bragging on my part: if you’re a regular reader you’ll remember me predicting a Kerry Meier touchdown pass in this game and apparently Ed Warinner got the message. Great play call; even better execution.
What in the hell happened to our kick coverage. Branstetter has made way more tackles than he should have this year and that wedge we let them set midway through the third quarter was simply awful and was the single biggest factor in changing field position for the next 10 or so minutes of the game.
Even in 21 point games, I love goal-line stands! It’s also worth mentioning that one both second and third down, Kendrick Harper was the cleanup tackler, denying any type of second effort that is so often when the ball sneaks over the line. Speaking of Harper, he really did a much better job once he got his wits about him. He’s not nearly the corner we all hoped he’d be, but after the first couple drives I hardly noticed him. I thought the Thornton loss killed us and in the end, it really only cost us an early score.
Third & 5 from our six yard line: if Todd gets one more yard under that pass, Dezmon may have had an additional 94 yards and 1 touchdown catch on that stat-line. As it stands, the pass was slightly underthrown and Traye Simmons celebrated being able to defend a pass despite being beaten on the route.
Rojas really has become a great weapon. It took him a couple games to get comfortable, but since then he’s really become a solid punter. He was sensational against Missouri and damn good again last night. Perhaps that was a little luck to get that out at the 1, but you still create your own luck to an extent and he put it where it needed to be.
It’s really unbelievable how much James Holt changed our defense in being able to rush off the edge the last half of the season. If we can figure out a way to get consistent pressure from our front four next year, our new linebackers and returning secondary will really reap the benefits.
As always seems to be the case, I feel like I've really overlooked Kerry and Jake. This wasn't one of Jake's best games, but 16 for 64 is a good solid game. And more than that, he punched in a score, held onto the ball and picked up blitzes. Nothing flashy, but nothing to complain about. And what can you say about Kerry except that he simply does it all. 10 catches for 113 yards and a score. 32 yard TD pass. And he's basically a ball control running game whenever we feel like we want to pick up 4+ yards. Phenomenal. And he's as big a reason as anyone why we'll be looking to exceed 30 wins over a 3 year span.
I mentioned in a preview that I expected a modestly dominating win. Not one in the sense of a blowout, but one in which we won every quarter and eventually coasted comfortably through the fourth quarter. I’ll give the Gophers the first quarter, because I think playing us to a tie favored them, but from then on I think that analysis was spot on. We dominated every phase of the second quarter, got a quick score in the third and pretty much cruised through the rest of the game holding a three touchdown lead for most of the second half. As we all knew before and was confirmed last night, Kansas was just a much better team than Minnesota this year. If we played that game 10 times, the Hawks would win no less than nine of them.