GopherDigest's Ryan Burns gives his thoughts on Minnesota's close win in OT against Colorado State

MINNEAPOLIS - After falling short in the season opener, Minnesota showed perseverance in coming back to beat Colorado State in OT Saturday 23-20. GopherDigest tells you what to takeaway from the victory.

1) QB Mitch Leidner is what he is 

I already know while writing this already that there are a strong number of people who don't agree that Mitch Leidner should be the quarterback going forward for the Minnesota Gophers this season and I'm here to tell you that I'm not one of them. I know others will read this, and tell me for what seems like the 100th time in less than 11 days that I am a Leidner apologist.  I am not.  That is kind my point. I don't have to believe he's the next coming of Tom Brady, but I do believe he's the best option Minnesota has to win. I do not agree that he is terrible. The Gophers have already proven they can win with Leidner as fans seem to forget that Minnesota won 8 games for the second straight season and made the best bowl game in the Gophers history since 1962. That's 53 years. He hasn't been worse than last year, and that isn't even debatable to me. Mitch hasn't thrown an interception since Ohio State last season, so over 20 quarters. Yes, I understand there's been some fumbling issues that have surfaced thus far, but he's taking better care of the ball, which is HUGE. For those yearning for true freshman Demry Croft, just because Leidner hasn't taken huge steps forward, doesn't mean you take a leap of faith into the unknown with a true freshman quarterback when you have a proven guy who lead the Gophers to their arguably best season in decades. All that being said, I believe Minnesota's best chance to win this season is with Mitch Leidner at quarterback. Love it or hate it.

2) Rodney Smith is emerging as the main running back in the Gophers offense

Thankfully now that we got the quarterback rant out of the way, we can address that largest positive with this Gopher offense and that's freshman Rodney Smith. Through his first two collegiate games, Smith has been outstanding in rushing for 196 yards on 37 carries, with an average of 5.3 yards per rush. The stats aren't skewed either with one long run as his longest run thus far is 26 yards and that came in his 108 yard effort on Saturday. It's clear through the small sample size of two games that the Gopher offense has moved a lot better with the Jonesburo native at tailback and I think that trend continues to go in the direction of Smith receiving more carries. After receiving 21 carries on Saturday to Rodrick Williams' six, it looks the staff agrees and will continue to make Rodney Smith the bellcow back. I still believe that Rodrick Williams and Shannon Brooks to an extent will get carries now and again, but Smith looks to have played his way into the starting role.

3) Drew Wolitarsky coming out party

Through two games in the 2015 season, junior wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky has already surpassed last years' numbers in terms of receptions, yards and touchdowns. After a move to the slot during fall camp, it looks like Wolitarsky is starting to thrive in his new role. Wolitarsky was the guy Leidner targeted most in the second half and for good reason as made a few big catches to extend critical drives. The California native finished the game on Saturday with nine catches for 114 yards and a touchdown, and with KJ Maye dealing with a potential broken rib, I expect to see a lot more of Wolitarsky the next few weeks. 

4) Steven Richardson was a man among boys

Maybe the most overlooked part of the Gophers overtime win on Saturday was how dominant sophomore defensive tackle Steven Richardson was. Richardson finished the day with seven tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery and a pass break up. I know Ra'Shede Hageman had his dominant moments, but Richardson has been consistently getting penetration into the backfield since day one. If Richardson stays healthy and keep this pace up, which he's given me no reason to think he won't, I absolutely believe he'll be challenging for a spot on the All-Big Ten team this fall.

5) The Gophers secondary is still elite

I know every Gopher scribe has touched on this, but holy cow was this on display Saturday as this Gopher secondary, down two significant contributors, absolutely shut down the Colorado State offense. I understand that All-American WR Rashard Higgins was out, but they held an offense that's averaged over 300 yards passing the last 14 games to only 142, with two interceptions. One from senior Briean Boddy-Calhoun and the other from junior Jalen Myrick. The defensive backs didn't allow the CSU wide receivers off the line and the safeties, particularly Kunle Ayinde and Antonio Johnson were stout as well. I wouldn't be surprised if Gopher fans are already starting to take for granted what Minnesota has in the secondary, but please take time each game to appreciate what may be the best Minnesota secondary in our lifetime. 


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