1. Big Plays Keep On Coming
Here is a little fact to think about, Minnesota had 10 plays of 40 yards or longer last year, but this year already have 9 plays of 40 yards or longer. This team lacked the explosive plays and didn't scare many of breaking a big play. An example from the game had to be Aaron Hill's 50 yard fumble return for a score in the fourth quarter to seal the deal on the game. To win big games, you need to have big plays and that is one big reason the Gophers are 2-0.
2. Special Teams Do Matter
Some do not look at special teams as an area that means a lot, but the Gophers have definitely capitalize on their opponents mistakes in this part of the game. Minnesota has scored on a blocked field goal, punt return and kick return. Junior Marcus Jones was named Big Ten Co-Special Teams Player of the Week after his punt return of 65 yards before the half to give the Gophers a 27-7 lead. Kicker Chris Hawthorne was solid once again by connecting on all his field goal attempts of 45, 22 and 27 yards. Not only did he make all his field goals, but he was 5/5 on all his extra points as well.
3. Overcoming West Coast Terrors
Minnesota could have had a bad mind set coming in about the time zone difference and the haunting memory of when the Gophers lost to the Aggies a couple years ago. Minnesota led through out the whole game and didn't show any fatigue or even sleep walking during the game. It looks like Jerry Kill is starting to turn the tide on his road woes.
4. The Running Game Got Going
The offensive line didn't really get a lot of push last week against UNLV, but did against New Mexico State as they ran for 342 on 43 carries. They averaged 8 yards per rush, which is great and can take a lot of pressure off young signal caller, Phillip Nelson. The leading rusher of the game was Roderick Williams, who had 16 carries for 148 yards and 1 touchdown. With Kirkwood recovering from an injury, it will have to take the full committee of running backs at Minnesota to take the load and they were up to the task Saturday night.
5. The Defense Tightened Up
While Minnesota gave up 21 points to New Mexico State and gave up 356 yards with most of it coming through the air by allowing 253 yards to be gained, it still was a improvement from last week. The Aggies' quarterback Andrew McDonald was impressive by being 22-31 with no touchdowns or interceptions. He managed the game and kept New Mexico State in the game for a little awhile, but eventually could not make any big plays when needed. Their running game could never get going against the Gophers physical front four and that made them become more one dimensional in their offensive attack. The defense did better on 3rd down and 4th down by stopping them more and getting off the field. Overall, a lot better performance by the defensive unit.