1. No shortage of big plays
Minnesota was not known for having many big plays last year, but in their opener against UNLV, there were a galore of big, impact and huge plays. The biggest play was probably Marcus Jones second half opening kickoff return on a 98 yard score. That was a huge momentum shift with the Gophers only leading by three it really open the floodgates and shook out anymore first game jitters that they might have had. Just seven minutes later, a UNLV field goal attempt was blocked and returned by Martez Shabazz for a 51 yard scoop and score. That really put the game away going up by making it a three possession score game.
2. Need more push from the offensive line
The Golden Gophers whole offensive line has game experience and are not small by any means. Not to mention they have one of the best running racks in the Big Ten behind them in Donnell Kirkwood. Mulitple backs were used during the game and there were not more holes than most expected against a smaller, but fast Rebels defense. Minnesota did end the game with over 200 yards rushing, but 48 yards came from Nelson's long keeper. Still, would like to see the backs get more of the rushing yards.
3. Phillip Nelson might have to do more
Nelson came up big completing 10 of his 22 passes on the night for 99 yards and a touchdown and interception. His best skill he displayed was actually his feet in which ran 12 times for 83 and two scores. Still, the offense never really had any flow throughout the game and though they scored 51 points, but 21 points came off non-offensive plays. Offensive Coordinator Matt Limegrover got conservative at times with his play calling and didn't attack the defense vertically, which I wish he would have try to do. There were quite a few plays, Nelson had to scramble around and make something out of nothing. He will probably have to do more of that creating to produce offense when nothing is really working for the Gophers offensively.
4. Get more pressure from defensive line
There was a lot of hype with the Gophers front four for their defense coming into this year and a lot that comes from Ra'shede Hageman, who was named 2013 Big Ten Preseason All-Conference First Team along with being on the following watch lists: Chuck Bednarik Award, Outland Trophy, Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award. Hageman had five total tackles on the night and demanded double teams the whole game. That should have open up the others to have a lot of one on ones, but it didn't result in anything. I would have liked to see the front four get more quarterback hurries, knockdowns and sacks without any extra bodies coming in to help. They will have to shed blocks better and find ways to attack the ball.
5. Get off the field
While the Rebels only won by time of possession by a couple minutes, it felt like UNLV had the ball a lot longer. A reason for that has to be the Rebels converting on all four of their 4th downs. Those are back breakers for the defense, but I do give credit where credit is due by the defense bending, but not breaking. The defense needs to step up on 3rd down and get pressure on the quarterback. UNLV signal caller Nick Sherry was looking sharp early and was moving the ball right now the field. This will hurt Minnesota in the future against some better teams they face if they can't stop drives sooner.