The Golden Gophers drop their Big Ten opener on the road losing in overtime to the Penn State Nittany Lions dropping to 3-1 (0-1) on the year.
Here are my five takeaways from the Gophers tough loss this afternoon.
1) Third quarter changed the game
Not a doubt about this play above changed the entire complexion of the game. Minnesota looked like they were about to open up an even bigger lead on Penn State as they had the Nittany Lions all the momentum on 3rd and 10. Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley escapes the pocket and fires a bullet down field to Irvin Charles with Kunle Ayinde in coverage. I'm not entirely sure what Ayinde was trying to do whether he was trying to tackle or strip the ball, neither worked and Charles runs past him for the 80 yard score. Minnesota's got to figure out a solution to their play along side Damarius Travis as Ayinde has been picked on and it's working for their opponents. That play will be remembered as the catalyst for Penn State as it completely flipped the script of the game.
Minnesota subsequently goes three and out on their next series and then Penn State does this on their first play.
Gophers then hold Penn State to a field goal, but after another Minnesota punt, the Gophers have a broken coverage that allows Penn State to take the lead on a rushing score.
The third quarter absolutely was the turning point in this game, and while Minnesota found themselves in the fourth, the game was there for the taking early in the third.
2) Undisciplined play
No matter whether you think this is targeting or not, it's just a stupid play by Jaylen Waters. Personally, I believe it's just unnecessary roughness and a 15 yard penalty as if you're going to run down the field and try and make a play, be prepared to play against the coverage team.
That being said, Minnesota had another eight penalities for 83 yards today, putting Minnesota at 35 penalities through four games, which is far, far too many. More pre-snap penalities, a personal foul on a punt and the Waters play, and Minnesota gives Penn State extra possessions. You can't do that on the road in the Big Ten and expect to win.
3) Chunk plays and missed opportunities haunt Minnesota
I talked about it extensively last week, but Minnesota's defense continues to be inconsistent with the chunk plays they're giving up.
Penn State had gains of 23, 25, 26, 32, 36, 53, 53 and 80 yards on the day, which totals 328 (69.6%) of their 471 yards on the day. Meaning on the other 61 plays that Penn State ran on the day, they only averaged 2.3 yards per play.
Too many times so far on this young 2016 season, Minnesota's giving up the big play, which is haunting this defense as a whole. 90% of the snaps, the Gophers defense looks solid, but it's the other 10% which Minnesota needs to figure out.
Throwing interceptions in the red zone in the fourth quarter on the road in the Big Ten also isn't going to get it done. You have to get points there and if you're going to miss on that, you have to miss it out of the end zone and not short.
You're also not going to win many Big Ten games if you can't get to the quarterback or force turnovers as Minnesota didn't have a sack on the day, and were only able to get one turnover (on downs if you count).
Minnesota also got into the red zone five times on Saturday, and for a team that was converting 90+% of those for scores coming into the game, the Gophers were only able to punch one of those opportunities in for a touchdown. That's got to be higher if you're going to win a Big Ten road game.
4) Running game continues to progress
Coming into the game, if Minnesota was going to win the game, it was believed that they'd have to continue to run the ball with success, and the rushing game did their part. The Gophers rushed the ball for 228 yards at a 4.8 ypc clip and for the third straight game Minnesota was over 200 yards rushing.
Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith ran hard all day and were routinely breaking tackles and dragging defenders for extra yards. The two Georgia boys combined for 204 yards rushing at a 5.5 yards per carry.
Credit to this offensive line and the play calling from Jay Johnson to set these runs up.
5) Everyone just take a deep breath
Is this a game that Minnesota could have won? Absolutely.
The game was there for the taking for both teams, and unfortunately for Gopher fans, Penn State was able to come up with the big plays late in the game and earned a victory in overtime, handing Minnesota their first loss of the season.
That being said, this is the first game of Big Ten play.
Minnesota takes on a reeling Iowa team at home next week, and obviously that's a very winnable game for the Gophers to take the Floyd of Rosedale back to Dinkytown. The following games after that are on the road at Maryland, home vs. Rutgers, on the road at Illinois, home against Purdue before Minnesota heads down to Lincoln to take on the Huskers.
My point being that Minnesota unquestionably be able to go on a nice little winning streak before heading down to Nebraska.
Will some things need to change for that to happen? Most definitely.
The defense has to figure how they can clean up the big plays that are consistently plaguing them.
The penalities need to be cleaned up as the Gophers can't keep shooting themselves in the foot with pre-snap and personal foul calls.
The secondary needs to find a consistent rotation that works and roll with it.
Leidner needs to continue to be consistent with his accuracy on throw to throw, and continue to improve his decision-making on the zone read and in the passing game.
All plausible things that can trend in the right direction starting next week against the Hawkeyes.
- Antoine Winfield in his first career start totaled six tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a pass break up.
- Brian Smith had his best career game with seven catches for 101 yards.
- Emmit Carpenter is still perfect on the season after converting all four of his field goals and both extra points this afternoon.
- Minnesota's offense had 18 plays of 10 yards or more.