Report Card: UNLV

Minneapolis, Minn. -- Minnesota opened their 2013-2014 season against the UNLV Rebels and bargained for more than they asked for in the first half, but pulled away in second half in large part from the big plays. GopherDigest grades how the offense, defense, special teams and coaching performed in their 51-23 victory.

Offense- The offense really did not look pretty. Although, they wound up culminating over 300 yards, there was no flow in the whole game. Quarterback Phillip Nelson came up big, but this time with his feet by scoring the Gophers first touchdown on a 48 yard run and later scored another rushing touchdown on a quarterback keeper. Nelson carried the ball 12 times for 83 yards for the night. Junior tailback Donnell Kirkwood had a tough night by never being able to get going and in the second half got rolled up on his right ankle, which got him carted back to the locker room. Offensive Coordinator Matt Limegrover wanted to establish the run against a small UNLV defensive front seven, which evident by his play calling of 38 runs compared to only 23 passes.

Grade: C

Defense- You could sum up the Gophers defense last night by saying bend, but don't break and that is exactly what they did. Sophomore signal caller, Nick Sherry was 35 for 50 with 226 yards passing. He looked sharp in the first half neutralizing the big and physical Gopher defensive line with the short pass with mostly the slant. It was very effective, but once the running game started to slow down, then Minnesota just focused on Sherry. He still ended the night with two touchdowns, but also had two interceptions as well. While Minnesota gave up a lot of yards in 419 yards, they only gave up 23 points and one of their touchdowns came in garbage time. The main problem with Minnesota's defense was they made the key stops when they needed to, but couldn't get off the field with the Rebels being 4-4 on 4th down. That will cost them in future games if they can't get off the field.

Grade: B

Special Teams- A area that many overlook is special teams, but did they come up big for Minnesota against UNLV. It started off by blocking the Rebels extra point after their first touchdown, which looked like at a moment that one point might be very big in this game. UNLV kicker Nolan Kohorst had a long night, who missed a 49 yard field goal and then had a blocked field goal attempt returned for a 78 yard touchdown by Martez Shabazz after Ra'shede Hageman blocked his kick. The biggest play in my opinion was the second kick off when Marcus Jones shot of a cannon and went 98 yards for the score. It was very deflating to the Rebels and from there the game was never really close. Still, there is work to be done by Minnesota missing a extra point and a field goal as well, but overall you can't complain by the performance the effort given on special teams.

Grade: B+

Coaching- In their first game, Coach Kill and his staff did a good job of his team being disciplined with not having any stupid penalties by the Gophers only committing one penalty. The opening 5 minutes looked very sloppy and they didn't look ready to play off the bat. During halftime, Coach Kill must have lit a fire under his team's butt because it didn't take long for the score to go from 16-13 to 30-13 in a matter of minutes into the second half. Defensively, the short passes no longer were hurting the Gophers by playing more press coverage and not just giving them 5 or 7 yard quick passes.

Grade: B


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