Three observations from the Gophers’ 34-3 victory over Middle Tennessee:
- This Gophers team can play some defense: Sure, Middle Tennessee was without its best two players. Quarterback Brent Stockstill did not play because of a cracked sternum, and wide receiver Richie James missed most of the game after suffering an ankle injury. But Minnesota’s defense still only gave up one field goal, and it still remains stingy at surrendering yards – only 230 for the game and 98 in the second half. And the Gophers’ two interceptions led to 14 points.
- If you like a grind-it-out running game, watch this team: The Gophers ran the ball 47 times Saturday and passed it 18. While those stats won’t always thrill people looking for pyrotechnics in their offense, it has been effective. In the second half of games this season, the Gophers have held the ball for 19:03 against Middle Tennessee, 21:02 against Oregon State and 20:35 against Buffalo. An opponent’s offense is going to have a heckuva time scoring against the Gophers defense if it doesn’t get on the field.
- How good is this team? I’m not sure yet, because the Gophers have played some flawed opponents. Today, Middle Tennessee didn’t have Stockstill and James, and their presence most likely would have resulted in a tighter game. Oregon State is a mess on defense, giving up 47.5 points per game. And Buffalo was a game but overmatched opponent that just beat Colgate for its first win. We’ll know a lot more over the next two games. Maryland scored 51 points in a win at Texas, and Purdue is vastly improved, coming off a 35-3 rout of Missouri in Columbia.