Saturday, September 25, 2021

John Shipley: The Gophers’ defense is still ugly

The season in Minnesota dropped from 60 mph to zero in two quarters on Thursday night.

Before the opening game of Huntington Bank Stadium against Ohio State University No. 4, no one knew exactly what to think of Gophers. Are they still emerging projects that ended with 10 wins and 11 wins and 2 losses in 2019, or are they a limping mess at the end of the 2020 COVID season with a record of 3 wins and 4 losses?

After losing to the Buckeyes 45-31, who knows the answer? But it doesn’t look good.

The Minnesota team did a lot of good things on Thursday, leading 21-17 in the third quarter and sprinting for more than 200 yards on the traditional best defense in college football. But in the fourth quarter, the disadvantages far outweigh the benefits. Ohio State University scored too easily. Guard Mo Ibrahim was in the locker room with a serious leg injury.

Without Ibrahim, the outlook for Minnesota is much bleak. As the top ten running back last season, Ibrahim has ran 30 times, ran for 163 yards, and has two touchdowns. Then he limped off the court, seemingly injured his calf. Before he cautiously walked out of the tunnel, he received nearly 15 minutes of treatment in the injury tent.

To make matters worse, Minnesota’s defense is not good. Maybe it will appear at some point this season, but last year’s team was one of the worst in a major school football game, and it remains so after one game. Ohio State’s 45 points on the Gophers is not a lot, but the way they do it-more games than playing in the backyard on a 15-yard lawn.

Minnesota has some good things, the most notable is the 203 yard rushing, mainly because Ibrahim ran behind the veteran defense. In the second quarter, they started preemptively from the 2 yard line and stubbornly ran inside until Ibrahim completed his first touchdown-which was no easy task for Ohio State University.

They also got a 46-yard shot from the new position kicker Matthew Trickett — Minnesota hasn’t shot more than 40 yards since 2018 — and seemed to have found another catcher, When he returned from an injury in Texas, he played with Chris Altman-Bell A&M and moved to Dylan Wright (5 catches, 57 yards).

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But with this defense, it may not matter. Yes, this is Ohio State University, but my goodness.

In his first college start, Buckeyes quarterback CJ Stroud completed 13 of 22 passes for 294 yards and 4 touchdowns. Yes, basically 300 yards are completed 13 times. Ohio State scored 71, 56, 70 and 61 yard passes. And they are not very good catches. Without opposition from the defensive guard, they ran as fast as possible. The Buckeyes have three games, two games and one game for touchdowns. They also ran a 61-yard touchdown and scored a 32-yard turnover from quarterback Tanner Morgan.

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That gave Ohio State a 31-21 lead with 2:18 left in the third quarter. This is not about a 10-point lead, but the Buckeyes’ ability to play large games almost at will. The Gophers did their best for every score — they switched at fourth and 1 for the first time — and the Buckeyes will respond with a 70-yard touchdown.

They could have played for six hours, and the Gophers would never catch up.

There is also some luck. The Gophers’ first lead came after a steal interception in a terrible pass by Stroud, and the second was after a rough pass free throw invalidated a long interception return. But they at least made hay. The defense must get better as soon as possible. The Gophers forced a pair of big three-pointers out in the first half. At that time, people wondered if there might be a top ten champion hoping to stick their heads out of the dirt.

In the fourth quarter, they were trampled by the Buckeyes on their way to the end zone.

It is difficult for a project like Minnesota to play against a team like Ohio State University in a season, so there is reason to think that the team will get better. But if the defense can’t stand firm, next week’s game against Miami, Ohio won’t be much better.

John Shipley: The Gophers' defense is still ugly
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