The biggest surprise might have been the result, because the Gophers football team displayed some customary characteristics in the loss to Bowling Green -- namely, a potent rushing offense and a struggling secondary.
Season openers are supposed to provide some answers and clarity. For the Gophers football team, a 32-31 overtime loss to Bowling Green on Saturday simply reiterated many of the things it learned during fall camp.
The Gophers showed they can still have a physical running game in the spread offense. Redshirt freshman quarterback Adam Weber showed flashes of his ability after shedding some of his first-game jitters. And the secondary showed why it remains a major concern.
Those things were evident throughout preseason camp, and they played out again in the opener, even if the sluggish start and final score were a bit surprising.
Gophers coach Tim Brewster liked a number of things about the opener, mostly his team's effort in erasing a three-touchdown deficit in the second half, but he was disappointed in the defense's inability to make just one play that could have changed the outcome.
"There is no moral victory here whatsoever," Brewster said. "The bottom line is, a little piece of me died [Saturday]. A little piece of every player on this team had to die because we lost a football game that I felt like we could have won."
The Gophers overcame a 21-0 halftime deficit and took a brief 24-21 lead on Jason Giannini's 33-yard field goal with 2 minutes, 12 seconds left in regulation.
But their defense failed to make a stop when the game was on the line, allowing Bowling Green to force overtime and use a successful two-point conversion to overcome the Gophers' hard charge.
"We had a chance to finish it out, close the door," Brewster said.
The three most intriguing story lines -- other than Brewster -- going into the game were Weber, the new spread offense and the defense.
Any remaining fears that the offense would scrap the run in the spread were erased in the second half. The Gophers used their size advantage up front and a heavy dose of senior tailback Amir Pinnix to get back into the game. Pinnix had 28 carries for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Brewster indicated Pinnix would continue to carry the load.
That doesn't mean Brewster was disappointed in Weber and the passing game. Weber completed 15 of 31 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. The entire offense looked out of sorts in the first half, but Weber seemed more comfortable as the game progressed.
"With it being my first start, I think I was a little overexcited and not making good reads [in the first half]," Weber said. "But at halftime we realized we needed to relax."
Weber didn't take many shots downfield, but he was busy in the option game. He rushed for 72 yards on 18 carries -- 62 yards coming after halftime.
"Obviously you can see how he can do things with his feet," Brewster said.
Brewster had hoped to see his defense make more things happen, especially in the secondary. The Gophers are young and thin in talent back there, and Bowling Green exploited them.
Quarterback Tyler Sheehan completed 34 of 51 passes for 388 yards and two touchdowns. The Falcons threw for 412 yards and would have had more if not for a handful of drops by their receivers.
Gophers defensive backs played too soft early, missed too many tackles and displayed no real confidence. They had a chance to make a number of plays, especially on the game-tying drive at the end of regulation, and failed to seize the opportunity.
"When we're in man coverage and we're bringing blitzes, we have to have the confidence to play tight and snug it up," Brewster said.
|Seattle - H. Iwakuma||11:05 AM|
|Cleveland - S. Kazmir|
|Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi||12:07 PM|
|Toronto - R. Dickey|
|NY Yankees - C. Sabathia||6:05 PM|
|Baltimore - F. Garcia|
|Cincinnati - J. Cueto||6:10 PM|
|NY Mets - S. Marcum|
|Philadelphia - C. Hamels||6:10 PM|
|Miami - A. Sanabia|
|Minnesota - K. Correia||6:10 PM|
|Atlanta - J. Teheran|
|Oakland - B. Colon||7:05 PM|
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|Los Angeles - C. Kershaw||7:10 PM|
|Milwaukee - Y. Gallardo|
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|Chicago WSox - D. Axelrod|
|Kansas City - J. Guthrie||7:10 PM|
|Houston - D. Keuchel|
|Arizona - P. Corbin||7:40 PM|
|Colorado - J. Garland|
|St. Louis - S. Miller||9:10 PM|
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|Washington - Z. Duke||9:15 PM|
|San Francisco - R. Vogelsong|