Season Report Card: Minnesota Golden Gophers
Highlighted by victories over ranked Nebraska and then against Penn State, Minnesota was able to come up with its highest win total since 2003.
Things could have been better, as the team dropped its final three games of the season, including an uninspired performance versus Syracuse in a Texas Bowl loss.
However, that doesn’t take away from its best season in over 10 years. Let’s see how the Golden Gophers graded out in their final report card:
One major focus this offseason needs to be the passing game. It was one of the least efficient and non-productive units in the country, ranking 115th overall and last in the Big Ten. Sophomore Philip Nelson was under center for most of the season, completing 50.5 percent of his passes for 1,306 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions. Minnesota threw the ball 267 times in 13 games—a whopping 20.5 attempts per contest—and relied very heavily on its running game and defense. It scored an average of 18.8 points against Big Ten opponents, and this is obviously an area that needs improvement for the Gophers to continue their success.
Although it allowed 42 points to both Michigan and Indiana, Minnesota’s defense was an underrated unit that got much better as the season progressed. Between the impressive play from monster defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman and a strong secondary, the Golden Gophers were able to hold Nebraska, Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State to an average of 16.8 points—all whom of which were played down the stretch.
Coach Jerry Kill was sidelined for three whole months due to his epilepsy, suffering numerous seizures that forced him to re-evaluate the way he goes about everyday life. Still, he was able to assemble a staff that could handle his absence and continue with the game plan he had installed throughout the first month of the season. And it’s not like he had no contribution—I’m sure he was in the ear of assistant head coach Bill Miller every minute of the day. It’s pretty remarkable how well things went in Minneapolis despite the adversity.
When it’s all said and done, Minnesota took down just one bowl-eligible opponent: Nebraska. Had it played a stricter non-conference schedule or beaten Iowa, maybe we’d be talking about an “A” here. Winning its bowl game against 6-6 Syracuse wouldn’t have hurt its chances, either.
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