Rushing Offense – C-
Considering how Indiana's running game has struggled at times this season, some might be content with a 19-carry, 75-yard effort from starter Chris Taylor and a 112-yard day overall for the Hoosiers. But considering how the Gophers have struggled stopping the run this season, Saturday's effort likely fell well short of what IU's coaches had hoped for.
Minnesota hadn't kept an opposing tailback from rushing for at least 100 yards in six games and it had been giving up more than 190 yards/game on the ground since conference play opened. Indiana ran for a season-high 232 yards a year ago in its upset win over Minnesota, but IU couldn't duplicate that success on the ground or the upset Saturday.
Indiana had some modest success early, as it produced 70 yards on 20 carries in the first half, including 47 and a touchdown from Taylor. Indiana ran the ball 20 times and threw it 19 times in the first half, a balance that helped IU produce a more-than-respectable 206 yards of total offense. But the third quarter was a different story. Indiana ran the ball 10 times for only 18 yards, and Indiana saw a 14-7 lead turn into a 34-14 deficit in a hurry.
Passing Offense – C
While Blake Powers threw for 253 yards on 26-of-43 passing, it wasn't the best of days for the IU passing attack. Uncharacteristically, the wide receivers had a handful of drops that stalled drives. James Bailey, James Hardy, Marcus Thigpen and Jahkeen Gilmore each had a drop Saturday. Those drops were especially prevalent in the first quarter, when a trio of drops contributed to a 4-for-9, 17-yard quarter for Powers, and a 172-48 edge in total offense for Minnesota. Gilmore's drop, meanwhile, was on a Powers throw that was a bit behind him, but deflected off him to defensive tackle Austin Montgomery for a costly interception.
One of the biggest positives to emerge from the game was the contributions of Marcus Thigpen, who caught five passes for a team-high 86 yards, including a 41-yard gainer. Indiana also attempted a reverse with Thigpen, and even used a direct snap to Thigpen in the fourth quarter to try to allow him to make a play. Thigpen is certainly one of IU's most dangerous players when he has the ball in open space and the fact he had his hands on the ball eight times suggests he could be a much bigger part of the offense in the regular season's final two games.
Noticeably absent was James Hardy, the Big Ten's leader in receiving yards and touchdowns entering the game. But the 6-7 redshirt freshman was limited to one catch for seven yards, and eventually left the game in the third quarter with an injury. He did nearly make a big play – late in the first quarter, he appeared to be interfered with by Gopher free safety John Pawielski on a deep ball down the sidelines.
James Bailey, meanwhile, came up with a pair of big catches in the second quarter on IU's first scoring drive. He had a 22-yard reception on a 3rd-and-8, and had a 29-yard reception on a 3rd-and-12 that moved the ball to the Minnesota five-yard line.
While Hardy's absence is a concern, the fact some other wide receivers are making plays was a positive sign.
Rushing Defense – F
To the defense's defense, it was without Russ Richardson, John Pannozzo and Aaron Mitchell for its matchup against the nation's No. 1-ranked rushing attack, but that still can't excuse a 347-yard afternoon for the Gophers.
Surprisingly, most of the damage was done by second-stringer Gary Russell and not Laurence Maroney. Russell carried 28 times for 188 yards and three touchdowns, while Maroney added 85 yards on 15 carries. Maroney was slowed by a tender right ankle, but that did little to slow the Gophers on the ground. Minnesota virtually ran at will in the second half, totaling 223 yards in the second half, including 144 in the decisive third quarter alone.
Afterwards, Terry Hoeppner said a second-half formation change put Indiana in a personnel grouping that limited its success in stopping the Gophers on the ground. Minnesota lined up in a one tight end, three wide receiver set frequently in the second half and ran with great success out of the formation. That spread the Hoosier defense out, and a very good Minnesota offensive line was able to open some big holes for Russell and Maroney to run through.
Pass Defense – D+
Minnesota didn't have to rely on the pass a great deal, but when they did opt to throw, Bryan Cupito did so with plenty of success. Cupito completed 16-of-26 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown.
Cupito didn't attempt a single pass in the fourth quarter and threw only four second half passes overall, but he completed all of them for 67 yards during the Gophers' big third quarter. His favorite target was tight end Matt Spaeth, who slipped out side on a couple of occasions for big gains and also had a 17-yard touchdown.
Indiana put very little pressure on Cupito, who wasn't sacked all day. That's nothing new, though, as Cupito has only been sacked three times this season. With time to throw, life wasn't easy for cornerbacks Leslie Majors and Tracy Porter, who combined for zero pass breakups. Indiana's only pass breakup came from safety Troy Grosfield, who made a nice diving breakup on a throw intended for Spaeth that forced a Gopher punt.
Indiana had hoped to be creating plenty of turnovers with its play defensively this season, but it didn't happen Saturday, and it hasn't happened this season for the most part. Minnesota had zero turnovers Saturday, and Indiana has only two interceptions in its last four games. Indiana has forced 15 turnovers in nine games this season (9 fumbles, 6 interceptions), and it is a -4 overall in turnover margin.
Special Teams – C
Indiana's special teams didn't do what it did in each of the last weeks when it gave up a return for a touchdown, but the special teams also didn't come up with any sort of big plays to give Indiana the sort of lift it might have needed to spring the upset.
That could have come early in the fourth quarter, when Indiana attempted an on-side kick with 9:21 remaining while trailing, 34-21. But Joe Kleinsmith couldn't get the sort of hop he was looking for on the attempt and the Gophers recovered it easily. The kickoff team also had another odd play in the second quarter, when Austin Starr attempted a pooch kickoff, but it went only 21 yards and was fair caught at the Minnesota 44. The pooch kick was certainly the coaching staff's call, although the ball was presumably supposed to be kicked to around the Minnesota 20 to an up man, not the Minnesota 45.
Indiana's return men didn't get much of a chance to make a play either thanks to the wind. Minnesota kicked off seven times Saturday, but six of those kicks were with a 15-20 mile per hour wind at kicker Jason Giannini's back. Four of those kickoffs went for touchbacks, while another went out of bounds and Indiana started its second-half opening drive at its own 35.
The special teams didn't stick out like a sore thumb Saturday, but it didn't shine, either. For a team looking to bring an end to a three-game losing streak, a momentum-altering special teams play could have been a big part of that. It didn't happen.
Overall – D
Indiana played some of its best football of the season in the second quarter when it outscored Minnesota 14-0, outgained the Gophers 158-108, and put itself in position get a much-needed win with a strong effort in the second half. But in the first, third and fourth quarters, the Gophers had their way with Indiana. Ultimately, Indiana couldn't run the ball and it needed to, and it couldn't slow down the Gophers on the ground at all.
Indiana-Minnesota Report Card
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