Under Tim Brewster, the young Gophers are still searching for an identity. A few more defensive performances like the one turned in against Indiana, and they may have it. Minnesota picked up a crucial 16-7 victory because of a stout defensive effort that smothered Indiana one year after the Hoosiers totaled 463 yards in an easy victory over the Gophers.
"The story was the Golden Gophers defense," Brewster said. "How about that defense?"
The Gophers limited Indiana to just a little more in total yards (293) than they gave up on the ground last year (228). Hoosiers quarterback Kellen Lewis was held to 185 total yards, he was sacked four times and fumbled twice. Minnesota recovered both.
"People always think it's the offense that will make the team win," senior defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg told the Star Tribune. "But the defense played a great game today. … We did awesome."
GAME BALL GOES TO: WR Eric Decker — Decker took a blow to the head but returned to set career marks in catches (13) and yards (190). He and QB Adam Weber are becoming a dangerous combination in the Big Ten.
KEEP AN EYE ON: The schedule — This was viewed as a must-win game if the Gophers had any shot at a bowl bid, and they won it. Now they have to get one more win, and the likely targets seem to be Purdue (Oct. 25), Michigan (Nov. 8) and Iowa (Nov. 22).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is what we came here to do, what I came here to do. To play defense. This feels great." — LB Lee Campbell, to the Star Tribune.
LOOKING GOOD: Junior WR Eric Decker set career highs with 13 receptions and 190 receiving yards. The 13 catches tie a single-game mark set by Aaron Osterman in 1994. The 190 yards rank third on the school's single-game list.
STILL NEEDS WORK: QB Adam Weber was rushed throughout the day, getting sacked four times and hit countless others. At one point, he limped off the field with a knee injury, although he was able to return. Weber is the heart of the offense, and the line must do a better job of protecting him.
Minnesota 31, Northern Illinois 27: Duane Bennett scored on a one-yard plunge with 22 seconds left to send the Gophers to a season-opening victory. Bennett scored a pair of touchdowns on the day and helped Minnesota avoid losing despite choking away an 11-point second-half lead.
Minnesota 42, Bowling Green 17: Quarterback Adam Weber threw for 233 yards and accounted for four touchdowns, and the Gophers put the game away with a 21-point avalanche in the fourth quarter. Minnesota turned four BG turnovers in the second half into touchdowns, blowing open what had been a tight game.
Minnesota 35, Montana State 23: Eric Decker caught nine passes for 154 yards and a score, DeLeon Eskridge became the first freshman in 22 years to rush for at least three touchdowns and the Gophers improved to 3-0 with the victory over the Bobcats.
Minnesota 37, Florida Atlantic 3: Freshman DeLeon Eskridge rushed for 78 yards and two scores, the Gophers rushed for 206 yards as a team and the defense kept FAU out of the end zone to improve to 4-0 this year. Minnesota limited FAU to 276 total yards one season after the Owls scored 42 points and racked up nearly 600 yards of offense against the Gophers.
Ohio State 34, Minnesota 21: For the first time this year, the Gophers lost the turnover battle, and ultimately the game. The Gophers turned the ball over three times, leading to exactly half of the Buckeyes' points (17 of 34). Freshman DeLeon Eskridge had 76 yards on 18 carries and Adam Weber threw for 187 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the loss.
Minnesota 16, Indiana 7: But for a breakdown in protection that led to a 77-yard TD pass, the Gophers' defense was stout. Adam Weber threw for 274 yards without an interception, completing 13 passes to Eric Decker. Joel Monroe kicked three field goals in the second half.