Turnover Turnaround Negative for Gophers

Last year, the Gophers were the best team in the country when it came to turnover margin. That has taken a dramatic turn for the worse this year.

The Gophers led NCAA Division I-A in turnover margin last season, and its 14 total turnovers tied for the fourth fewest nationally.

The Gophers rank last nationally in turnover margin through four games this season, and their 16 total turnovers are tied for the most. That is not good news for the Gophers as Ohio State, which owns the nation's second-ranked defense, comes to town on Saturday. For all the criticism directed at the defense — much of it deserved — the rash of turnovers is perhaps more troubling because it's out of character for this program.

Since the 2000 season, the Gophers have finished in the top 11 nationally in fewest turnovers every season, save one. They committed 21 or fewer turnovers in all seven of those seasons. The Gophers are averaging four turnovers a game this season, which puts them on pace for 48 for the season.

One week after committing seven turnovers in a loss at Florida Atlantic, the Gophers had four more turnovers in the first half of a 45-31 loss to Purdue.

Gophers coach Tim Brewster benched senior tailback Amir Pinnix after he lost a critical fumble for the second consecutive game in the second quarter. Brewster reiterated Sunday that he won't tolerate turnovers and said he will continue to emphasize ball security in practice this week.

"Ball security is the No. 1 issue in my mind that determines wins and losses," Brewster said. "Until we figure that out, we're going to struggle to win football games. As I state again, those that turn the ball over consistently will not play. We're going to put people on the field who have great ball security."

The outlook isn't much better on the other side of the ball. The Gophers rank last in Division I-A in total defense and pass defense and are 109th in scoring defense. And yet Brewster felt his defense made strides after giving up "only" 31 points and 504 total yards against Purdue.

NOTES

  • In a program that has produced its share of elite running backs in recent years, true freshman tailback Duane Bennett looks like he might become the next in line. Bennett replaced senior Amir Pinnix last week and rushed for 81 yards and one touchdown on seven carries. His 44-yard burst early in the second half set up a touchdown and gave the offense a spark.

  • Freshman QB Adam Weber had a shaky start in his Big Ten debut but settled down and led Minnesota to four consecutive touchdowns in the second half. Weber completed 16 of 28 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns after halftime. He also carried the ball 20 times for 63 yards and one touchdown.

  • Minnesota's defense hasn't had many bright spots, but senior safety Dom Barber continues to make plays. Barber, the younger brother of Dallas Cowboys running back Marion Barber III, had a game-high 12 tackles and one pass breakup against Purdue.


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