Leidner to Wolitarsky in the soft zone
Here's the second of three 3rd and longs for Minnesota on their opening drive, and all three were converted. Leidner takes the snap and immediately looks to his left to slide the zone coverage and then comes back to the center of the field to hit Wolitarsky coming across the middle for the first down. Leidner to Drew Wolitarsky was the theme of the day on Saturday.
Beautiful play design for the first
Love the play design and execution here by the Gophers offense. You'll see that Wolitatsky and Tyler Johnson both drag across in the middle only a few yards off the line of scrimmage and that the linebackers suck down and go with them because of that. WR Brian Smith runs a vertical route bringing the safety with him and that leaves Brandon Lingen wide open in the center of the field for the first down. Great job by everyone here to convert on the 3rd and long.
Leidner to Wolitarsky for the score
Gophers go play action on first down in the red zone and while Leidner does under-throw Wolitarsky a bit as you'd ideally want that throw more towards the back pylon, it doesn't matter as it floats over the Sycamore defender for the touchdown. Look at all the time, and the clean pocket that his offensive line gives him to step into the throw as well. Gophers take the lead 7-0.
Brian Smith with the adjustment
Not a critical play by any means, but love to see the adjustment of the ball by Brian Smith. He releases off the line, turns his head and sees the ball is going to be inside and subsequently breaks inside for the diving catch. Great to see that play from the walk-on.
Scott Ekpe bullies his way to the quarterback
What Scott Ekpe did in that bull rush, was the definition of putting an offensive line on skates. Ekpe gets five yards of penetration, which forces Harker to try and scramble and Ekpe won't let him get away.
Sycamores with the lucky bounce
Take out this double deflection and you have a real case that Indiana State doesn't get points in the first half. The ball hits the Indiana State wide receiver in the hands, which then deflects off Kunle Ayinde's chest, which then pops over his left shoulder to the waiting Sycamore receiver who takes it for the big gain.
From watching this play again, I even believe that the two Indiana State receivers have their routes crosses up as well as there's no reason for them to be right on top of each other.
Regardless, Indiana State gets a lucky bounce and one 58 yard gain later, the Sycamores are within the red zone.
Indiana State gets on the board
Two things stand out to me on this play.
1) Watch Antonio Shenault at the top of your screen, and you'll see him flip his palms to the sky while looking at Duke McGhee meaning he's wondering what the play call is. McGhee never reciprocates the attention back, and I'm not sold that Shenault knew what the call was.
2) Minnesota's sitting back in zone, and Harker finds the soft spot in the zone over the top of Julian Huff. Shenault doesn't arrive there quickly enough and Tonyan adjusts to the back shoulder throw for the score.
You want more from Shenault here yes, but also give some credit to Harker for putting this ball on the correct shoulder so that Shenault can't close in time.
Third time is the charm for Wozniak
Seems to be a pattern here in the first quarter that Mitch Leidner is able to find the soft spot between the linebackers and safeties to convert for big plays through the air. After two drops early for Nate Wozniak, Leidner goes back to the well again and Woz is able to hold on for the big gain. Leidner's got time in the pocket after the play action to set his feet and deliver the accurate throw.
Brandon Lingen pancakessss
Going to go up on my soapbox here for a moment.
Yes, Brandon Lingen was just cleared this past week to play after off-season shoulder surgery held him out. Yes, Lingen leaves the game early because of injury in the second half after breaking his collarbone.
Those. Two. Injuries. Are. COMPLETELY. NOT. RELATED.
If you watched the first half, you saw plays like this. Watch Brandon Lingen come out of the backfield at the bottom of the screen, meet the Sycamore linebacker at the line of scrimmage, and then drive him eight yards down field for a nasty pancake.
Does that look like a player who shouldn't be playing coming off a shoulder injury? No. Lingen was healthy and played because of it.
I'm tired of the narrative already that Lingen shouldn't have played on Saturday because he was injured. He was deemed healthy by the training staff and I don't see many ill-effects from watching the tape of a shoulder issue.
/steps off soapbox
Smith hits pay dirt
Fantastic blocking by Minnesota's offensive line and Brandon Lingen (watch Lingen pancake the Indiana State defensive end) gives Rodney Smith an easy cut to go north and south into the end zone. Smith through two games has already surpasses last season's rushing touchdown mark with three on the season.
End of the 1st quarter: Minnesota 14, Indiana State 7
Richardson is a one-man wrecking crew
Minnesota dropped nine men into coverage on this third down, meaning they only rushed two players. Good thing Steven Richardson was one of them as he crosses the left guard's face and forced Harker to make an early throw that's off the mark to force a fourth down. This won't go down as a sack, but with Richardson getting a hit on the quarterback, you can see why he's so valuable for Minnesota.
Offensive line getting push
Thought this was a great angle to see the kind of work that Minnesota is doing in the running game so far. LT Garrison Wright, LG Connor Mayes and TE Nate Wozniak crash down, with RG Jared Weyler pulling around and he meets the linebacker in the hole. Want to make sure that Wozniak gets his due here as really takes the Sycamore defender out of the play. McCrary with some nifty footwork is able to get a first down, but this offensive line needs to be getting more and more credit here.
Leidner to Wolitarsky, part two
Another play design that I'm a fan of from Jay Johnson.
You have Brian Smith as the outside receiver at the top of the screen, with Wolitarsky just inside of him. Smith runs at the inside corner (covering Wolitarsky) and then breaks to the back pylon. Wolitarsky runs along the goal-line and Indiana State can't pass off quickly enough and Wolitarsky has his second touchdown on the day. You also have Tyler Johnson work across the middle from the bottom of the screen, and looks like he may have been the second option, and looks like he was open as well.
Pressure, pressure and more pressure
This is exactly what the 2-4-5 is designed to do in terms of generating pressure. Minnesota sends Kamal Martin off the edge and Jack Lynn in the middle, and while Lynn can't quite finish off Harker, Martin turns the corner and makes sure Minnesota gets the sack.
A game of pitch and catch
One of the few times this season that left tackle Garrison Wright has been beaten on a pass rush, but Leidner's able to stand tall in the pocket and step into the throw none the less. The pass is accurate 25 yards down field and Wolitarsky makes a spectacular diving catch for the first down. Great job by Leidner and Wolitarsky here.
Also want to highlight Rodney Smith here in pass protection. Again, he was FANTASTIC all day in pass pro, and that's one way a running back will continually find ways to get on the field.
Welcome to the end zone, Tyler Johnson
Fun to watch Tyler Johnson on this route. He breaks out of his route, snaps his head around, catches the ball, immediately turns up field and dives for the pylon, getting the touchdown. Tyler Johnson is also playing in his second career game as a wide receiver. Johnson's got a ton of upside and he's a guy I know that Brian Anderson is excited to work with his for years to come.
I can hear linebacker's coach Mike Sherels yelling in the back of my head, "STRIP IT!", while watching this play. Gophers stand up the Indiana State running back, and Julian Huff gets his right hand on the ball and rips it out. You'll see Damarius Travis at the top of the screen dive on the ball, and Minnesota gets another turnover.
McCrary scores his first career touchdown
Two guys I want to highlight here are TE Nate Wozniak and LG Connor Mayes. You'll see Mayes on the pull here meet the linebacker and McCrary reads that and cuts inside diving for the stripe. You'll also see Wozniak crash down the defensive end in front of McCrary clearing the way for Kobe McCrary's first career score.
What is targeting?
I honestly don't know what targeting is anymore.
Mitch Leidner is just trying to center the ball in the middle of the field, and then go down. His knee is clearly already down, and the Indiana State rusher, CLEARLY hits Mitch with a helmet to helmet call and NOTHING is called.
If that's not a penalty, and yet Minnesota has three players ejected the week before for hits less severe than this, I don't know what to say.