For a change, the Gophers' defense got credit for a victory on the football field, 16-7 over Indiana on Saturday.
While several Gophers defensive players had standout performances at the Metrodome, one of the best was by cornerback Ryan Collado, who started nine of 12 games last season but lost his starting job this year, then gave up a couple of big plays as the fifth defensive back in the season-opening victory over Northern Illinois.
Coaches stuck with him, and the sophomore did a great job Saturday, with a team-high seven tackles, six solo, after replacing the injured Marcus Sherels. Collado also forced a fumble, which was recovered by the Gophers' Tramaine Brock.
"The Ryan Collado thing is a great story, and a great lesson for our football team to learn," new defensive coordinator Ted Roof said. "Because he was a guy that got beat up a little early in the season, but he stayed after it and didn't throw in the towel, didn't pout, didn't sulk, just kept working.
"And you never know when your time is coming, and his number was called today, and he responded, as so many of our players did."
It was quite a change from what the Gophers are used to, as the defense played great while the offense struggled to score points, with Adam Weber getting sacked four times, even though he completed 22 of 37 passes for 274 yards.
And the other big star again, as usual, was wide receiver Eric Decker, who caught 13 of those passes for 190 yards. After the game, he said he was a little dizzy after having to leave the game briefly. Decker is no doubt one of the great receivers in the country, and if the Gophers lose him for any length of time, they will be in real trouble.Defense better
To give an idea how much the Gophers defense has improved under Roof, in last year's 40-20 Hoosiers home victory over the Gophers, quarterback Kellen Lewis passed for 235 yards and ran for 75, and Indiana had 463 yards of offense to the Gophers' 392.
"They were averaging 250 yards a game rushing going into the football game," Roof said of this year's Hoosiers. "They were second in the Big Ten [in rushing] and second in the Big Ten in offense."
Lewis, who threw for a school-record 3,043 yards in 2007 while rushing for 736, came into the game third in the Big Ten in total offense this season, averaging 251.8 yards per game. But Saturday, he was limited to 18 net rushing yards, having been sacked three times, while throwing for 167 yards on 15-for-21 passing. Indiana finished with only 293 yards of offense, compared to 333 for the Gophers.
A week ago in losing at home to Michigan State 42-29, the Hoosiers were able to gain 473 yards against a Spartans team that improved to 5-1 and 2-0 in the Big Ten after beating Iowa on Saturday.
Obviously, it was a big victory for the Gophers after they didn't win a conference game last season. But the Gophers must get more from their running game, which had a net of only 59 yards. DeLeon Eskridge was held to 74 yards on 29 carries and Shady Salamon 10 yards on four carries.
That rushing total was also affected by Weber getting sacked four times for 22 yards.
"I've just got to give credit to Indiana, they basically got most of their pressure off of four-man rushes, and we just didn't do a great job getting into our sets with the urgency that we need to get out of our stance and get into sets and do a good job in pass protection," Brewster said. "We did a poor job today in pass protection, and it's something that I'm going to address and we're going to improve upon as we move into next week's game."
And let's face the facts, the Hoosiers are not in a class with the Illinois team the Gophers face next weekend at Champaign. After that game, we will have a better idea how good the maroon and gold defense is at that point.Important game
In New Orleans, they are comparing the 2008 Vikings to the 2007 Saints, a team that was being mentioned as a Super Bowl contender but wound up starting the season 0-4. They then had a game at Seattle they had to win, and they did, 28-17 -- starting a four-game winning streak, although it wasn't enough to save the Saints' season, as they finished 7-9.
"We went to Seattle 0-4," New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "That is the magnitude of this game, and I know the mindset on [the Vikings'] part is to come in and make it their best performance of the year to this point. And obviously, we want to continue to stay on the winning track here and getting a winning streak going and get some momentum."
Brees leads the NFL in passing yards (1,343), the eighth-highest league total through four games. The Saints have scored 20 points or more in 10 consecutive games.
Maybe Adrian Peterson can have a big game Monday night at the Superdome, because the Saints are allowing opponents to average 5.2 yards per carry, which ranks 30th in the NFL.
"Fans will be in that dome drunk crazy and yelling," Peterson said. "It's going to be a good atmosphere to out test what we've really got."
The Saints have had the same problem the Vikings have had, with 13 penalties in Sunday's victory over the 49ers and 29 penalties for 280 yards this season. The Saints are 2-2, but the combined record of their four opponents so far is 11-5; Tampa Bay, Washington and Denver are 3-1, and San Francisco is 2-2.Jottings
The Twins won't talk about it, but it's expected that Delmon Young, the left fielder they obtained from Tampa Bay before this past season, will be made available on the trade market. ... The Twins are likely to allow lefthander Francisco Liriano to pitch in the World Baseball Classic next spring, but not in winter ball. ... Righthander Kyle Lohse, who couldn't get anybody out here at the end of his Twins career, made $215,000 here in 2002 but just signed a $41 million contract for four years -- an average of $10.25 million per year -- to stay with the Cardinals after he went 15-6 with a 3.78 ERA this past season.
Bryce McNeal, the outstanding Breck wide receiver who committed to Michigan, was a visitor at Gophers practice last week, and friends have said that if the Gophers prove they can win some games, McNeal might change his mind.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. email@example.com