1. Program Headed In Right Direction
This past game against a very good Northwestern, which was on the road really looked like a hard game to win. Many didn't think very favorable of Minnesota pulling off the win with the Wildcats to losing to two of the best in the Big Ten to Ohio State and Wisconsin. The Gophers were again without Head Coach Jerry Kill and were led by interim head coach Tracy Claeys. This game had all of the makings of Minnesota losing a close one and saying this game was a moral victory, but that won't get you in a bowl game. A defense that swarmed the Wildcat offense all game was the highlight of the day to walk away with a 20-17 victory.
2. David Cobb Was Strong
The Minnesota rushing attack had 136 total rushing yards against Michigan and really had no running backs stand out. That was quite different as David Cobb had a coming out party with 20 carries for 103 yards. With Cobb stepping up to the plate it off the pressure for quarterback Mitch Leidner and Phillip Nelson to run the ball. Leidner only had 7 carries in the game compared to the previous two games, where he had a combined 42 carries. The beating each quarterback will take from running the ball that much will wear on them throughout the season and could have them out for awhile. The emergence of Cobb taking the reins this game was huge and he could be the next great Gopher running back.
3. Two Very Capable Quarterbacks
Minnesota was smooth sailing with quarterback Phillip Nelson as their signal caller for the first few weeks, but then he got hurt and backup quarterback Mitch Leidner came in and won his first start. The Iowa game both quarterbacks had a bad game and Leidner got his first start on the road in front of 111,000 people at Michigan, where he performed well enough to keep the Gophers in the game for a good portion. This week, Nelson managed the game by not turning the ball over as well as Leidner. Nelson was 8-11 for 112 passing yards and Leidner did his damage on the ground with 7 carries for 27 yards. I am fine with starting either quarterback because I believe both have the traits and ability to keep Minnesota in games and win them.
4. Defense Buckled Down
The Wildcat offense has been pretty much explosive all season except for their hiccup against a physical Wisconsin defense last week. Minnesota didn't have to face off against quarterback/wide receiver Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark with both being out for the game. Still, Northwestern had a good quarterback to steer the ship in Trevor Siemian, who went 25-46 passing for 234 yards through the air and a touchdown. However, he threw two picks in the game with one going to mammoth defensive tackle Rashede Hageman and one to James Manuel, who took it to the house. The Gopher defense forced three turnovers in the game and did better on 3rd down with Northwestern being 6-16 on 3rd down. They gave up 328 total yards, but at the end of the day, only 17 points went on the board, which is below their average.
5. Leadership Was Visible
Minnesota is one of the least penalized teams in the nation, but this past Saturday had 9 penalties for 89 yards. That can really kill a drive or keep the opposing offense going, but that didn't let the Gophers back down. One of the leaders on this team is Rashede Hageman, who recorded his first interception of the year. They needed a big play to happen and the future lottery pick stud defensive tackle came up big. Brock Vereen played cornerback and led the defense to rally and overall put together a great performance against a high powered Wildcat offense.