Friday, August 30, 2013

Gopher Victory Hollow

I will be posting a very detailed account of the Gophers' victory over UNLV on Sunday or Monday.  The plan is to analyze the performance of individual Gophers play by play and grade them in the end.  This process takes about eight hours, so I doubt I can do it more than this once this season, but last year's UNLV write-up on a different site revealed both good and poor play that would continue throughout the year.

As far Thursday night's game goes, here are some initial musings:

  • My thought was that the Gophers needed to beat each of their first three opponents by four touchdowns to demonstrate the real improvement necessary to be a Big Ten factor and have a chance of winning eight regular season games.  I didn't account for a four touchdown difference where it felt lucky to even win.  The offense didn't operate smoothly, the defense still has gaping holes up the middle, and the kicking and punting continues to be shaky.  This win didn't feel good, if you're a smart Gopher fan.
  • Bad kicking and bad punting, and the Gophers still destroyed UNLV on special teams.  I suspect that's not going to be a Gopher trend this year.  I know that UNLV's special teams are abysmal.
  • My cynical nature melts when I think of how lucky this program is to have Jerry Kill at the helm.  I personally think he will have teams that, unlike Glen Mason, will contend for a Big Ten title. But it's becoming painfully obvious the Kill regime has a serious flaw: in-game decision-making.  There are many aspects to this, but most of the decisions are simply the offensive playcalling.  It is my hypothesis that Kill loses more games than he should.  It appears he lost more games than he won when he faced similarly talented teams at lower levels, and his strength is in building the teams.  The good news is that this decision-making aspect is correctable if Kill, Matt Limegrover, and Tracy Claeys are open-minded and admit they can do better.  As for last night, it appeared to me that UNLV was going all-in to stop the run, and sometimes a coach has to abandon his game plan to take advantage of what's being given him.  Yes, Coach Limegrover?
  • Speaking of decisions, whose decision was it to start running Philip Nelson with the game in hand?  If anyone thinks the Gophers can afford an injury to Nelson, they truly don't understand his talent and the mediocrity behind him.
  • I don't think Ra'Shede Hageman is a good defensive tackle.  I've made that clear here and in other fora.  But I have nothing against him personally, and it thrills me when he does something good, as I have this inexplicable love for Minnesota Gopher football over all sports.  Last night he knocked down a pass at the line of scrimmage and then blocked a FG in the 3rd quarter that Martin Shabazz picked up and took to town.  While the block was a bigger play, the pass knockdown thrilled me more.  If he's going to get playing time and isn't going to be able to penetrate, he needs to get those hands in the air.  I should mention that Hageman had a couple other good plays inside, and while I don't think he'll grade out well at DT, he played much better than he did at UNLV last year, when he really did nothing except accept a gift sack after his DL mates chased the quarterback out of the pocket.
  • At first glance the offensive tackle play appeared to be lacking, which I've been saying for some time now.  I will concentrate on this during the video review.  Josh Campion is currently receiving a lot of hype and praise from the coaching staff.  My experience is this is an indication that he's not playing as well as he could, and that the coaches are trying to build his confidence.  I couldn't isolate him more than a few plays last night, but what I saw didn't impress.
  • Jamel Harbison sitting out last night scared the hell out me.  Apparently it was disciplinary and not serious at that.  Harbison is going to be the Gophers' best receiver, and they'll need him.
  • In other receiver news, Isaac Fruechte looked less like the Scarecrow than he did at any time last year.  KJ Maye is going to be a real weapon for the team in the slot, I believe.  He is fast, athletic, can catch the ball, and just seems to know what to do on a football field.  Disappointingly, Derrick Engel got zero separation last night, and I fear that will be a continuing problem.
  • Hmmm...Roderick Williams apparently entered the game as the third option among non-injured RBs.  He got time only after Donnell Kirkwood went down with a sprained ankle (one week or two years, it's still being evaluated).  Williams runs hard, he's tough to tackle, and he's a very effective receiver.  Kill should not be worried about Kirkwood being out, but he is, and that's all we need to know about Williams' pass-blocking prowess.
  • I was glad to see Cole Banham get in the game.  The kid is doing the near impossible, getting playing time where none should exist.  It speaks both to the injury situation and to the level of talent of the Gopher RBs, but Banham is a tough player, a good player.  And while a walk-on tailback shouldn't really be getting any time, my opinion is that his being in the game doesn't drop the talent level much.  That's unfortunate.  I probably wouldn't bring it up if I expected to see him only at garbage time this year.  I don't.
  • Again at first glance, the duo of new starting CBs impressed me last night.  I'll look deeper, but Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun appeared glued to their men.  There were a lot of holes for open receivers, though, and I'll try to determine what or who was responsible for that.
  • Martin Shabazz let UNLV receiver Devante Davis get away from him on fourth down and catch a TD pass from his scrambling QB Nick Sherry.  What happened?  It appeared as if Shabazz was trying to keep his zone as Davis headed to the middle of the field.  I'll be much happier if it's a Shabazz mistake rather than a safety missing his zone assignment.  It's an easy correction.
  • Brock Vereen is a good football player.  I said it when he was at field CB two years ago and being derided by many on Gopher Illustrated.  It's obvious now.  I think he plays at the next level.  The move to safety was a good one, though, as I didn't really think he had NFL corner speed.
  • I am a bit concerned that Kill gave a scholarship to a kicker/punter who neither kicked nor punted last night.
  • I was glad to see Joe Christenson of the StarTribune acknowledge what no one seems to ever seems to want to admit.  The Gophers' seemingly resurgent offense in the bowl game benefited greatly from a really bad Texas Tech defense. I was getting a little tired of reading how the new offense Limegrover implemented was mostly responsible for the huge yardage the Gophers rolled up.  Last night UNLV's defense proved too much for Limegrover and his fancy new offense.  What Limegrover needs is better personnel and better playcalling.  Simple as that.  The former will develop over the next couple years, the latter is in question.

1 comment:

RobbyGspoT said...

It seems to me that all you do is point out the flaws in the game. Yes, it would be nice to see better execution with better game calling...but did you ever think that they call the plays where they have strength? You sit here and monday morning qb the games. It is easy to nit pick all the things that are wrong after the fact, and quite frankly, the negative vibe your blog gives off is more than enough to convince me to quit reading it. We can all sit back and complain about play calling and lack of talent on the team. But it does not mean we should.