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Five Game Changing Plays: Minnesota vs. TCU

GopherDigest's Ryan Burns take a look at the five game changing plays in the Gophers close loss to #2 TCU from last Thursday night.

1) Rodrick Williams fumble inside the five

To start things off here, I have to mention the Gophers redzone fumble. Minnesota had a lot of momentum on this drive down 10-0 mid-way through the second quarter as a few plays earlier, Leidner connected on a deep pass to KJ Maye off a flea flicker. It was 2nd and 6 from TCU's 11 and Leidner made the correct call on the read option leaving Williams one on one versus the safety. The safety dove at Williams legs and instead of trying to side step, the Gophers RB tried to jump over the top of the diving defender, but with timely helmet placement by the TCU defender, Williams fumbled into the endzone, which was recovered by the Horned Frogs for a touchdown. Missed opportunity to bring the score to a 10-7 game and give the Gophers defensive some more momentum.

2) Ace Rogers non-fumble

It's been explained to me since the play happened that the referees ruled that the TCU ball carrier's forward progress had been stopped, which is why they never reviewed the play. I couldn't hear that in the press box, but I'm still disappointed that the refs blew the play dead as I think the Gophers lost out on getting the ball in prime territory. Had the refs just let the sequence play out, I think it'd be Minnesota ball at TCU's 35 on a heads up play by Ace Rogers, but we move on. Still a great play by the former JUCO All-American.

3) KJ Maye pass interference

This call is one I still don't understand at all. Watch the GIF below and it's clear that Maye is trying to make a double move. The TCU defensive back stops his feet, holds the Gophers receiver so Maye can't cross his face and then he falls down. Maye has no choice but to keep running through the TCU DB as he's being held and can't cross his face. Looking at the rule book, the refs must have thrown the flag on Maye as he was "driving through a defender who has established position." The issue I have with it again is Maye wasn't allowed to cross his face because he was held, so he had no choice. The other thing about the call is Minnesota would have went from 2nd and 11 at their own 36, to the TCU 49 with a 1st and 10 to start the 4th quarter down 20-10. Instead, they faced a 2nd and 26 from their 21 and there's just not a lot of play calls to run for OC Matt Limegrover at that stage.

4) De'Vondre Campbell near INT

This one really hurt at the time. With TCU driving at the end of the 1st half and inside the Gophers 10, De'Vondre Campbell dropped back into coverage from his defensive end spot and had the ball thrown right into his jumping arms for a near pick. As you can see from the GIF below, there was nothing but green in front of him for another 90 yards with only the QB to potentially beat. Still a great play by Campbell to bat the ball down, but could have been a game changing point in the game.

5) Rodney Smith almost touchdown

The end things here, not sure fans would recoginize this play as a game-changer, but let me explain. If you slow things down, you'll see that the Gophers offensive line did a phenomenal job here. Pirsig and Bobek got to their defenders at the second level with ease and sealed off a running lane for Smith. Christenson at his LG spot, washes the defensive lineman across the play as well, so a big hole for the freshman running back to go through. The other big part I want you to watch is the TCU's safeties. #6 at the top of the screen is locked on to the Gopher TE in the slot and didn't have his eye on the read option mechanism at all. The TCU safety at the bottom of the screen was locked onto the slot receiver as well. If Smith hits that hole and keeps his feet, I firmly believe he goes 55 yards for a rushing touchdown. 

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