During the bye week, the Gophers spent their Tuesday practice stressing fundamentals, something offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca considered important.
“We believe the game is about details,’’ Ciarrocca said Wednesday. “We had one practice where that’s all we did; we went 17 periods of individual [drills]. Our group on offense, we need that kind of stuff. Our details have come a long, long way since last spring.’’
That has shown in the statistics. The Gophers rank second nationally in time of possession; their 36:44 average trails only Wisconsin’s 37:21 in FBS, and they have two offensive turnovers – one interception and one fumble – which is tied for sixth fewest in FBS. In addition, they’ve allowed only one sack, which is tied for third fewest nationally.
“The exciting thing is: We still have a long way to go,’’ Ciarrocca said.
Good problem to have
With Shannon Brooks out against Middle Tennessee and Rodney Smith unavailable after halftime because of a hard hit, Kobe McCrary stepped in and rushed 27 times for 107 yards and three touchdowns. That didn’t surprise Ciarrocca one bit.
“We knew in the spring that we had three legit Big Ten backs,’’ he said. “… My wife after the game asked me, ‘Were you really surprised by [McCrary]?’ I was like, ‘Nah, not at all. He’s really good, and I knew that he was really good.’ ’’
With Smith and Brooks expected to return against Maryland, Ciarrocca will have options.
“It’s great to have three backs, especially when you’re committed to running the ball as we are now,’’ he said, noting he wasn’t sure how he’d distribute the carries among the three. “… I just know we would like them to touch the ball a large percentage of the time.’’
With Demry Croft still indefinitely suspended, redshirt freshman Seth Green has served as the backup to quarterback Conor Rhoda. Ciarrocca indicated that Green, a former East Ridge standout, is making strides and that the bye week helped.
“Seth has grown,’’ Ciarrocca said. “He got a few more reps in practice and a few more reps in individual [drills], too. Repetition is the mother of all learning.’’
Added Rhoda: “He’s got all the skills in the world. He’s learning a ton every single day, and now with him getting more reps in practice, I think you’ll see him take a huge step.’’
Stelter up for academic award
Gophers defensive tackle Andrew Stelter is a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame announced.
The award recognizes the most impressive group of scholar-athletes in college football. The NFF will announce 12 to 14 finalists on Nov. 1, and each will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship as a member of the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class.