Minnesota got by Oregon State in a tough but interesting opener. What are the 5 things that matter about Minnesota’s win?
When in doubt, run, Mitch, run.
The Gophers got a big running game out of Rodney Smith – taking off for 125 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries – but it was QB Mitch Leidner who saved the day by scrambling when he had to.
The Gopher offense struggled and sputtered with the passing game, and Leidner was part of the problem with an inconsistent game. However, the receivers didn’t exactly help the cause on Leidner’s 13-of-26 day.
There weren’t many downfield passes, and there were too many missed opportunities, but when needed, Leidner took off and kept the chains moving. He’s an NFL prospect as a passer, and he might start to emerge as more of one as the season goes on, but for now, he’s going to ball out and do whatever is needed to move the offense. That’s what a veteran leader does.
And that’s what a quarterback does when he’s missing a ton of receiving weapons.
Oregon State has its quarterback.
The offense might have stalled too many times in the second half, but that’s mostly because the line didn’t do much of anything once the Gopher defensive front got into a lather. Fortunately, Utah State transfer Darell Garretson looked like a keeper, even if he had a few too many misfires. He hit 25-of-40 passes for 228 yards and three scores, while the running backs took care of almost all the rushing workload.
It was a road loss against a Big Ten team, but Oregon State looked better than it did last year. It has a few decent parts to build off of, and it should start with Garretson.
Yeah, you go for two.
It’s really not that controversial of a call. Minnesota was up 30-23 in the final minutes after Leidner got into the end zone, and instead of going up eight with a safe extra point, it went for two and, effectively, the win by going for two.
It didn’t work as the play got broken up, but even with the miss, it was unlikely that Oregon State would go for two if it had scored a touchdown. Meanwhile, had the Gophers converted, game over.
That’s the type of call players love, and it’s why head coach Tracy Claeys showed why he’s thinking two steps ahead. He’s going to go for it, and that’s what’s going to make the team stronger in the long run.
The targeting calls.
Minnesota lost three players to targeting calls, and now it’ll have to adjust.
It wasn’t just about losing players for the game and for part of the next game, it showed that as aggressive and as feisty as the D might be, and no matter what the mindset is, there can’t be another game with so many shots to the head. This team can’t lose playmakers.
With four sacks and plenty of pressures and plays in the backfield, Minnesota’s D looked solid – for the most part – when it came time to crank up the intensity. But it’ll have to dial it down just a wee bit to keep the players on the field.
What Does This All REALLY Mean?
Minnesota wasn’t sharp, but it was able to still beat a Power 5 conference team without playing well. The running game has to average more than 3.2 yards per carry, and the defense has to be a bit tighter on third downs, but it got through it with a win. With Indiana State up next before a week off, there’s time to tune up.
Oregon State could’ve started out red hot with a week off now before facing Idaho State. The loss is going to sting for bowl hopes, and now it’s going to take a few upsets to get to six wins. The path was going to be there with a win in Minneapolis, but now, this is all still a work in progress under Gary Andersen.