Steven Richardson with a start to a massive game
First play of the game for Minnesota's defense and defensive tackle Steven Richardson starts the game with a sack. He's able to blow the center back and then spin back toward Collin Hill who is just getting to the top of his drop. Pressure eventually gets to Hill and Richardson spins him down for a sack. This was the start of a huge day for Richardson.
What is targeting
I encourage you to watch this a couple times and then keep reading.
I understand that this play in particular isn't necessarily targeting by definition, but watch the Colorado State safety (#8) here. Leidner gives himself up, then he decides to go for the headshot, and he's lucky he runs into his teammate here as if he connects with Leidner, and that's not targeting, I have absolutely no idea what is.
Again, it's clear that Leidner has started his slide and has given himself up, and yet the Colorado State safety wants to go for the head. He's just lucky his teammate is there to bail him out.
One missed assignment
Minnesota's defense is allowing a 45% conversion rate on 3rd downs this season, and while that number went in the right direction Saturday as Minnesota's defense held the Rams to 33% on 3rd down, here's one that could have been prevented.
Gophers are in the 3-4 and drop Carter Coughlin into coverage and blitz Jack Lynn. Coughlin gets too deep in his drop vertically and doesn't feel / see the open Rams wide receiver on the edge, so Hill's able to complete the pass when he steps up in pocket. With Coughlin being so deep in his drop and not enough to the edge, he's unable to take a great route to the receiver, misses the tackle and he's able to get another 20 yards.
Plays like this are going to happen with you play a true freshman who is in his second career game and whose skill set is much more tailored to rushing the passer at this stage, but Coughlin will get better. Minnesota needs he and Kamal Martin to keep playing and learning for Minnesota to have success in the Big Ten this season.
Travis gets Minnesota's first pick of the season
Damarius Travis happens to be in the right place at the right time for Minnesota's first interception of the season. Hill has a clean pocket for the most part, and he just leads his receiver a little too far and Damarius Travis happens to be there. Notice how Travis cradles the ball to fall on his back to prevent there from being any confusion if that ball hit the ground.
Another Leidner to Wolitarsky connection
Wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky and quarterback Mitch Leidner have been on the same page a lot in 2016, and here's just another example. Leidner sees the Rams defense slip back into zone coverage and lets it go once Wolitarsky gets past his initial defender. Pass comes in a little high, but Wolitarsky is able to pull it in and then drag defenders for a nice gain on 3rd and long.
Carter with the diving catch and it's a beauty
Love the effort and hand-eye coordinator here from Gophers WR Eric Carter. Huge catch and that's one way to make sure there's more playing time coming your way.
Smith with a huge hole to run through
Another third down conversion for Minnesota in the first quarter with some stellar line play, good running back burst and Rams linebackers over-pursuing. Right tackle Jonah Pirsig is claim to turn the defensive end, and Jared Weyler at right guard works up into his gap, sees no one there, and helps center Tyler Moore on a double team.
You'll watch the Rams strongside linebacker follow the tight end going across the formation and that's enough for Rodney Smith to burst through the line, make the safety miss / run through an arm tackle and come so close to a long running touchdown. Also should note that Smith carried the Rams corner on his back for eight yards and almost into the end zone. That's some tough running by Smith.
Miscommunication on the false start
This play on film looks like one where Mitch Leidner and Tyler Moore are on two different wave lengths. Just as Moore gets done calling out protection, he looks back at Leidner to see the leg kick signalling he's ready, but Leidner wants to go hurry up. The moment where Moore puts his head down to see Mitch, is the instant where Leidner calls for the ball, and it ends up as a false start.
Not sure what could have prevented this other than Leidner and Moore have to get on the same page before Moore goes down into his stance.
Leidner scores on the read option
With Drew Wolitarsky in motion across the middle, Minnesota's able to get Leidner off the edge on read option untouched into the end zone. Tyler Johnson runs off his guy on the top of the screen, Colton Beebe comes across and the defender decides to take the inside shoulder, leaving Leidner with nothing but green on the outside and he runs into the end zone.
I also want to credit right tackle Jonah Pirsig here. He works a double team to the second level where he gets on the outside linebacker and eventually drives him into the ground. Love what I'm seeing from the Blue Earth product so far this season.
Lack of rotation leads to a big play
Colorado State motions a wide receiver across the formation and you'll watch Damarius Travis here yell and point to fellow safety Daletavius McGhee that it's his responsibility now. He doesn't immediately rotate down to follow him, and then McGhee doesn't set the edge and close off the sideline as he lets the blocker set him up so the ball carrier can turn the corner. Antonio Shenault eventually force him out of bounds, but McGhee has to take a better angle there.
Colorado State gets on the board
The play call for Colorado State couldn't be any better as the play side defensive end goes out and the defensive tackle slants in, so the running lane was already going to be big. The issue here is that McGhee takes a bad route to the ball carrier, and Antonio Shenault isn't able to recover fast enough to meet the ball carrier at the sidelines for the Rams score.
Missed tackles and opportunities here for the Gophers defense.
First quarter score: Minnesota 7, Colorado State 7
Route running execution
Love the route from Drew Wolitarsky. He motions across the formation and Tyler Johnson on the outside runs into the middle over the top and open up space for the Wolitarsky to drive toward the bottom, to only then change directions and have a lot of open green ahead of him for the first down.
Not a lot that the Rams secondary can do there to prevent this from happening.
Love the play design here from Jay Johnson.
Keep the legs churning
Another example of the tough running from Gophers running back Rodney Smith from Saturday is on display here. Takes the read option hand-off and pushes Tyler Moore and Connor Mayes into the end zone for the score. Both Jared Weyler and Jonah Pirsig are able to handle their man, and Tyler Moore and Connor Mayes are able to get to the second level to seal off a lane for Smith and Minnesota takes the lead back.
Mountain West refs are generous
Defensive tackle Steven Richardson was called for a 15 yard face mask on this play, and he looked visibly upset on the field after this call, and now we know why.
As the video shows about, Richardson never touched the running backs face mask as he used his gigantic left paw to spin the back around and you can clearly see he's got all jersey.
Remind me again how the Mountain West got to take their crew out to this game?
Shenault recovers for the PBU
Have to give Shenault some probs here and the pass is placed nicely on the back shoulder and Shenault recovers quick enough to bat down the receiver's left hand to force the incompletion. Minnesota will need a lot more plays like this next week against Penn State from Shenault.
Tai'yon Devers eviscerates Collin Hill
I don't think you can be hit any hard in the game of football and still be legal.
You know the rest.
Rodney Smith playing video games
Colorado State has seven players in the box here, and Minnesota's only got six to block them. The unblocked defender comes through and Rodney sets him up inside and then spins outside for the big gain. Rams defenders have to stop throwing shoulders, and start wrapping up, but great tough run on third down from Smith.
Gophers go on the power play
On Minnesota's next play, the Gophers run power and execute it very well. Left guard Connor Mayes comes across and the rest of the line down blocks. Mayes pulls up into the hole, tight end Nate Wozniak washes his guy down, right guard Jared Weyler washes his down along with Tyler Moore. Smith bursts up inside, stiff arms a man at the 10 and gets down to the three yard line.
Also, watch Jonah Pirsig here again. I know I keep talking about him, but he's playing fantastic right now. Works down inside and then gets on the safety and WWE slams him into another Rams defender on the ground. That's just nasty.
Patience is key
This is probably me going all wishful thinking here, and I understand the play design here as it's power and Rodney Smith goes where he's supposed to, but watch the cut back lane that develops between Tyler Moore and Jared Weyler here. If Smith stays patience, he could have jump cut out to the center of the field for the touchdown.
Again, I'm splitting hairs here, but so be it.
Leidner's first turnover of the season
This play was the result of a cornucopia of things.
First and foremost, it was a bad decision from Leidner to try and force this ball into tight coverage knowing the situation here. I'm also not a fan of how Nick Hart rounded this route off as the Rams defender didn't have to do a lot of work here, but credit to the Colorado State kid as well as he stepped in front of the pass. The ball placement here is actually good as it's not like it's on the upfield shoulder."