Report Card: New Mexico State

Las Cruces, N.M. - Minnesota had a lot of momentum going out West after winning their season opener in convincing fashion to UNLV and did the same thing to New Mexico State. GopherDigest grades how the offense, defense, special teams and coaching performed in their 44-21 win.

Offense- Minnesota was a man down with star running back Donnell Kirkwood at the the helm, but Roderick Williams stepped up to the plate and had 16 carries for 148 yards and 1 touchdown. Overall, the Gophers ended up rushing for 342 yards on 43 carries, which was an average of 8 yards each rush. While the running game got going and the offensive line got the push they didn't have last week, the passing game was lacking. Sophomore quarterback Phillip Nelson was only 8-15 for 127 yards and had an interception. That needs to be more consistent and converting 3rd downs was a problem as well by only being 2 for 9 on 3rd down. I still thought the offense did what they needed to do and put up 44 points, which is nothing to complain about.

Grade: C+

Defense-The defense had their ups and downs throughout this game by giving up 353 yards with most of it coming through the air. Aggie quarterback Andrew McDonald didn't put on a show, but did manage the game by going 22-31 for 186 yards. He didn't throw any touchdowns, but he didn't throw any interceptions either. The Gopher run defense was strong this game by stiffening and not allowing any holes to open up. New Mexico State finished the game with 103 yards on the ground and averaged 2.5 yards on each rushing attempt. The Big Ten will look to run the ball whoever is their opponent, so it is nice to see Minnesota making the Aggies a one dimensional offense. I like where this defense is heading despite the loss of starting cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun, which hurts, but if any unit on the defense can stay strong, then the defensive backs are it.

Grade: B-

Special Teams- I am never in favor of giving a super high grade towards to this unit, but again they came up solid and consistent. Kicker Chris Hawthorne on all his three field goal attempts was good and converted all five of his extra points. There was another big play as junior Marcus Jones returned a punt for 65 yard score as he put the Gophers up 27-7 right before the first half expired. If the offense or defense is struggling, special teams can really be the momentum shifter and get the team going.

Grade: A

Coaching-The New Mexico State game could have been a nightmare game and even a trap game, but Coach Kill got his team prepared and ready for the late start. The Aggies a couple years ago put a fear in the Gophers and ultimately beat them, but this time around, Minnesota was more talented and ready on what to expect. I wouldn't have been surprised if this game was very close, but Minnesota came in with a game plan and executed it fairly well.

Grade: B+


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