1. Need To Control The Clock
Minnesota needed to do a few things to win against Michigan and in the first half, they executed one of those things very good. It is hard for teams to beat when they don't have the ball and it keeps your banged up defense off the field as well. After Mitch Leidner fumbled on his first drive, he came back poised and ready to lead the offense and they did just that. The drive went 16 plays for 75 yards and ate up 9:44. Overall, the Gophers had the ball for about 34 minutes, which was 8 minutes more than Michigan and kept them in a game that many thought they didn't have a shot. If they can continue or better, then they got a shot to at least stay in every game.
2. Bye Week Comes At A Good Time
After falling to Iowa and Michigan the last few weeks, the bye week comes at good time. The area that it should help the most is with the defense. The secondary is super thin and a couple days ago at the Minnesota press conference, defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said Boddy-Calhoun, Wells, Thompson and Shabazz would be out if there were a game that day. Nelson's health is still getting there, but from what I saw Saturday, I wouldn't call him 100% yet. The same can be said for Donnell Kirkwood, who saw game action against Michigan or just didn't look to be all the way back yet. This week should let the Gophers feel and prepare for a very good Northwestern team on the road.
3. Mitch Leidner Showed Many Positives
This past week against Michigan, the coaches decided that week that Mitch Leidner would start over Phillip Nelson. This would be Leidner's first true test and first road game. I thought it might be a long game when he fumbled on the first drive, but then he settled down and lead the offense. He ended the game going 14-21 for 145 yards and a touchdown and pick. He also ran the ball 18 times for 66 yards, but I was more impressed with his arm and his ability to lead so young. He now leads the team in rushing yards per game at 63.4 yards and he has second the most carries on the team (64) to David Cobb's 68 carries.
4. Need To Target Maxx Williams
While there were not many bring spots in Minnesota's second straight loss, one player really bursted onto the scene was tight end Maxx Williams. He is a mismatch problem for any defense with his size and playmaking ability. He displayed that against Michigan this past week. Leidner connected with Williams 7 times for 151 yards and a touchdown. He came up with some big plays especially with that touchdown grab and just out jumped the smaller defender. I think after this game he will get thrown to more and deserving so.
5. Give Credit Where Credit Is Due
When I got to the stadium, I had no idea what had happened until I saw the news. It was shocking to me with Coach Kill suffering another seizure that morning and not going to coach in the game. I thought this veteran coaching staff did a excellent job by regathering the team and keeping them focused with this sudden late news. While the team didn't come away with this game, they did play a lot better than they did last time they traveled to the Big House, which resulted in a 58-0 blowout and was over by the first quarter. It is hard to be able to react and go with the flow given the situation, but the coaching staff got the team ready to play a big game, but they just didn't have enough.