1. Can't Start Slow
I know it is hard to get up for every game especially if it is Western Illinois, but to allow them to only be down 3 at the half is nothing to be proud of. Michigan was sleep walking the whole game against Akron this past weekend as well, who had a 27 game road losing streak coming and the Zips almost left the Big House with a huge upset victory. The Gophers don't have the talent yet to have a slow start like this one and if it happens against some of the stronger competition coming up, then they could experience some unpleasant learning lessons.
2. Got To Generate A Passing Game
The ground and pound method worked this past weekend against FCS opponent Western Illinois by the Gophers rushing for over 200 yards, but the main issue has to be the passing game. Phillip Nelson was only 3-4 passing for 19 yards. He ran the ball 6 times for only yards, but he is more of a run first, pass second quarterback. Not only that, but he got hurt midway in the game. Freshmen Mitch Leidner stepped in his spot was 7-8 passing for 105 yards and rushed the ball 17 times for 64 yards as well. The offense started to click more in my opinion since passing was now more of a threat to the defense. The running attack is getting better with the offensive line working on finding that push every play. One thing that will take a load off the passing game's shoulders is when junior running back Donnell Kirkwood comes back. He did dress for the game, but did not get any carries still nursing a sore ankle.
3. Be Ready To Come In At Anytime
I hit on this earlier, but every man on the roster has to expect I could come in at anytime. Quarterback Mitch Leidner did just that against the Leathernecks. He understood his role and executed better than expected. Who knows what Nelson's status will be this weekend against a tough San Jose State rolling in and even if Nelson plays, I am not sure how healthy he will be. Leidner knows the Gophers like to establish the run, which they are trying to make their bread and butter, so he just has to manage the game and not turnover the ball. That can be a lot to ask for a freshmen, but he was ready and prepared to perform at a high level and I give him much credit for that.
4. Win the 4th Quarter
The Gophers were only up by three at the end of the third quarter and were in jeopardy of losing to the Leathernecks. Minnesota came out ready to win the fourth quarter and the game by scoring 14 points, while Western Illinois was never able to get anything going. The first score came from a David Cobb 3-yard rushing touchdown and the other score was a Roderick Williams ripping off 37 yards for the touchdown to seal the deal.
5. Stay Strong
When Head Coach Jerry Kill went down on the sidelines and got carted off, which led to him eventaully going to the hospital, the Gophers could have folded and went into shell shock. That can be something hard to get your mind off of, but I give a lot of credit to the players and this coaching staff by staying focused and determined to get this win for Coach Kill. This week Coach Kill I think will be back on the sideline and I expect this Minnesota team to be pretty fired up about that.