Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Yet another good Monday morning to be a Gopher fan
The Minnesota Golden Gophers are 8-0 for the first time since 1941 after defeating the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday in a 52-10 romp. We’re pretty happy about it — and nervously excited for the rest of the season — and you should be too.
What is your Tweet-length (280 characters or less) summary of the Gophers’ 52-10 victory over Maryland?
mowe0018: 8-0. Undefeated. No injuries. Covered spread. Just win, baby. Win the bye week with no practice injuries or “trouble.” Ski-U-Mah. Row the Boat.
IowaGopher: Antoine Winfield Jr. made it out alive, and the Gophers emerged unbeaten. What a time to be a Gopher. Best bye week feeling ever.
gopherguy05: It was a very good Saturday. Bring on two-weeks of hype.
GoAUpher: SUPER HAPPY HAIKU TIME:
This is so much fun
Truly the best time to live
WhiteSpeedReceiver: Not bad. Not bad at all.
zipsofakron: It’s been a long, long time since I watched the first play of a game and was like, “Yeah, they’ve got this.”
GopherNation: This was really a boring game. And tells you all you need to know about where we are right now.
UStreet: Never in doubt.
To borrow a Fleck-ism, who is your pick for “Nekton of the Week” from the game?
mowe0018: Antoine Winfield Jr. He fought off the demons of Maryland games’ past, avoided injury, added an interception to his ledger, and continues to be a guiding force to a defense that is improving each and every week.
IowaGopher: Mariano Sori-Marin. The sophomore linebacker was asked to step in for the injured Kamal Martin — a senior leader on defense and the team’s leading tackler — and the Gopher defense didn’t miss a beat. Sori-Marin even led the team with a career-high eight tackles against the Terps.
gopherguy05: Rodney Smith. This guy just is so good at what he does.
GoAUpher: Rodney Smith, because ALL-TIME ALL-PURPOSE YARDS RECORD BOOK.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: Seth Green. We keep him in mothballs nearly all season, then on Stop 3 of the P.J. Fleck Revenge Tour we bust out a heavy dose of Sethcat and he delivers every single time.
zipsofakron: Seth Green. Just add water.
GopherNation: Jacob Clark. Did you see that fourth quarter bomb?
UStreet: Brevyn Spann-Ford for the wham blocks that allowed Seth Green to do Seth Green things.
Which stop on the Robb Smith Revenge Tour has been the most satisfying: Illinois, Nebraska, or Maryland?
mowe0018: All of them.
IowaGopher: It’s difficult to choose a favorite, but humbling the Huskers, Scott Frost, and their fans in a blowout was very satisfying. I mean, it’s been more than two weeks and Frost is still complaining about players wearing hoodies during pregame warm-ups at Minnesota.
gopherguy05: Nebraska for their fans’ reactions alone. Illinois for the fact that they then beat Wisconsin, so Badgers fans look like complete idiots when they try to play the “MiNnEsOtA HaSn’T pLaYeD aNyOnE” card.
GoAUpher: I am honored that Minnesota was able to make Nebraska fans very confused and angry about the state of their program.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: Oh, it’s Nebraska. So much talk coming in, so little talk (because they were all on the road home by that point) when the game was over.
zipsofakron: Putting Nebraska in their place given all of the preseason hype has been one of the more satisfying victories of the season.
GopherNation: For now? Probably Nebraska. But the answer is really Iowa.
UStreet: What GopherNation said.
How impressive were Mariano Sori-Marin and Braelen Oliver in place of injured linebacker Kamal Martin?
mowe0018: One thing that the 2019 edition of the Golden Gophers continues to deliver is week-to-week improvement. This continues to manifest itself across the board. Both Sori-Marin and Oliver were very uneven and inconsistent in their first effort to replace Kamal Martin earlier in the season. However, on Saturday they did so with great aplomb. They were quite cogent in their assignments and quite impressive if comparing their previous efforts.
IowaGopher: I touched on this under Nekton of the Week, but I am much less concerned about the depth at linebacker than I was before the game.
gopherguy05: After an early rough start to the season those two really seem to be getting in and growing into their spots. Feeling much more confident in their ability to step in without missing too much.
GoAUpher: I feel like Oliver just ate another guy. Right now. He’s hungry and that’s dangerous for everyone else.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: Very. I love that we have depth and guys ready to step up and ruin dreams, and damn did these guys ruin some dreams.
zipsofakron: The fact that I didn’t hear the name “Kamal Martin” the entire game speaks for itself and the team’s depth.
GopherNation: After internal discussions bout how next year’s linebacker group will be a big question mark, I feel much better. Those guys played great.
UStreet: Quite good. I was pleased.
Am I alone in feeling the Gophers’ passing game has looked fairly pedestrian of late? Tanner Morgan has completed less than 60% of his passes in three of their last four games, and thrown for more than 200 yards only once during that stretch.
mowe0018: I believe that the offensive game plan has somewhat influenced the appearance of the passing game. Morgan wasn’t overly sharp but he also hasn’t had any egregious errors. The interception thrown against the Terrapins was a chance the offense as a whole decided to take to at least attempt a killing stroke in a game that was essentially already over. I think when push comes to shove and an opposing team is able to stall our run game, we will see some creativity and better play from Morgan and co. I could be wrong, but I’m sure we’ll see in these next four games based on the quality of defenses the Gophers will face.
gopherguy05: It has taken a step back for a few reasons. Tanner needs to make sure his mechanics are sound, because when they are, he is great, but when he reverts into bad habits, not so great passes ensue. Our receivers can help him some, but on some of those balls, nothing is going to help. As we play teams which much better pass rushes in the near future, its going to need to be a full offensive effort to make sure “Bad Tanner” doesn’t show up.
GoAUpher: They have, but we’re 8-0, so I’ve decided not to worry about it too much. There are a lot of reasons why this could be the case. HOWEVER, we have seen more “Bad Tanner” recently than I’m comfortable with if I have to be fully honest. The completion percentage worries me more than the yardage. Yardage is a function of the game plan and the opponents not forcing large passing games. But missing receivers was the thing Tanner wasn’t struggling with even in the early rough games, so to have him be less accurate now is not my fave.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: I think the current status of the offense is, “We’ll beat you with whatever you want us to beat you with,” and teams are just trying to take the pass. You want us to throw rock, hooboy will we keep throwing rock.
zipsofakron: The ability to let the running game do its thing for the past few weeks has cannibalized some of the passing game, so I’m not overly concerned. Morgan hasn’t really been “forced” into needing to be great, so I’m not surprised we’re getting a pedestrian effort.
GopherNation: Yes. In part because we run the ball so much in the second half when leading by so many points. But when throwing, Morgan hasn’t looked as sharp. We will need him against Penn State and the beauty is that he has always played great when it was needed most.
UStreet: Yes, but then again when the pass game goes 24-of-25, everything will be a step down. Otherwise I agree with gopherguy05.
What is one aspect of their game you’d like to see the Gophers work on and change their best during the bye week?
mowe0018: Kickoff coverage and punting. Special teams, according to the eye test and the advanced statistics, has been the Achilles’ heel of this team all season. Hopefully there can be some incremental improvement in that facet of the game. Additionally, I wouldn’t mind there being some sort of plan for timeout usage that will allow us to have some available for what will inevitably be closer games during the back portion of the schedule.
IowaGopher: Special teams for sure. Kickoff coverage, specifically, because the Nittany Lions have a dangerous returner in wide receiver K.J. Hamler, who ranks tenth in their program’s record books in career kickoff return average. If Grant Ryerse can’t consistently boot the football through the end zone for a touchback, the Gophers need to be sound in their coverage and keep Hamler from breaking a big return.
gopherguy05: Most everyone else will say special teams, so I’ll avoid that and go back to Tanner Morgan’s passing mechanics. Get those back in sync like we saw at Purdue and let’s pass all over the Nittany Lions.
GoAUpher: Special teams is #1 for all the reasons already given. Pass protection and Tanner’s completion percentage are #2A and #2B.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: Health. Get this Death Star fully armed and operational. Then make sure we can kick the ball out of play every single time in two weeks.
zipsofakron: I don’t know how this gets solved in two weeks but is there any way that we can up the ability of Michael Lantz? I feel like it’s a 50-50 shot whether any kick (including extra points) actually goes in.
GopherNation: PJ Fleck’s timeout usage. It is infuriating. In a competitive game those timeouts are so valuable in the end. After that I’m going to agree with WSR and just want us to be at full strength. Special teams may be weak, but more than anything I want everyone playing at full speed and let’s see how we match up.
UStreet: Get healthy.
The Penn State game is the program’s biggest game since ___________?
mowe0018: Ever? Or at least ever within the construct of college football as we know it today. Sure, we’ve played in and won Rose Bowls before, but this is definitely the biggest game the Gophers’ will have played in in the last half century or so. I say this because realistically speaking the 2003 Gophers had little to no chance at winning the conference (no divisions yet). But this edition, based on schedule, advanced metrics, and the eye test, does in fact have a chance at winning the division and playing in conference championship, as well as making a significant bowl game (read: Rose Bowl or if things get really crazy… the CFP). These things are within a realm of statistical possibility. I don’t think we could have said that before. Glad we have two weeks to get ourselves properly hyped.
IowaGopher: Biggest game of my lifetime, at the very least.
gopherguy05: My 21st birthday, 10/10/03. Hopefully this game will not make me drink nearly as much as I did that day. And that was all pregame…
GoAUpher: Since Michigan 2003, but this is bigger. So… Biggest game in my lifetime, possibly the biggest game since the 1960s.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: November 5th, 1960. #3 Minnesota (6-0) hosted #1 Iowa (6-0) and won 27-10.
zipsofakron: Haven’t been this nervous or excited since the Halloween game against Michigan in 2015, and even then the stakes pale in comparison to this. A win here puts them in the driver’s seat for a MAJOR bowl game and/or postseason opportunity. It’s the biggest game in the program’s post-1960s history.
GopherNation: The 2003 Michigan game was really big. The 2015 Wisconsin game was one for a trip to the Big Ten title game. But this one feels bigger. Although to be honest, this may not even be the biggest game of the 2019 season. Winning this one makes this a special season and one where you are likely playing in the kind of bowl game not seen by this program in decades. Lose and all of your goals are still attainable. It is big. It feels bigger.
UStreet: Michigan ‘03.