1. The Gophers might have found another running back
Throughout the season's first four games, a question often asked about the Gophers offense was, "Why isn't Zach Evans playing?" The main reason that Evans, a redshirt freshman, wasn't playing was that true freshman Darius Taylor seized the job and averaged 133 yards per game. But with Taylor out because of a leg injury, Evans got his chance against the Ragin' Cajuns. Bryce Williams started the game, but Evans grabbed the lead role on the Gophers' second series and rushed 15 times for 85 yards and a touchdown. The Gophers spread the carries among five players, and the result was 51 carries for 201 yards. "Now we have a group of running backs, gaining experience," coach P.J. Fleck said. "That was a huge question mark in the beginning of the year."
2. Athan Kaliakmanis takes another step forward
Kaliakmanis, the redshirt sophomore quarterback, beat himself up over his performance at North Carolina, where he completed only 11 of 29 passes for 133 yards. In the past two weeks, however, he's improved, going 14-for-19 for 153 yards and two TDs at Northwestern and 12-for-14 for 146 yards and two TDs vs. Louisiana. His completion percentage of .857 was fourth best in Gophers history since 1979 (minimum 10 passes thrown). "That's not too bad from somebody that two weeks ago everybody says was awful," Fleck said.
3. The Gophers won the key situations
The Gophers trailed the Ragin' Cajuns 17-14 at halftime, but they pulled out the victory largely on the strength of three stats: third-down conversions, fourth-down conversions and red-zone efficiency. Minnesota went 7-for-13 on third downs, including 5-for-9 in the second half. The Gophers were 4-for-4 on fourth downs, including a 2-yard TD plunge by Kaliakmanis and Kaliakmanis' fourth-quarter TD pass to Daniel Jackson. When the Gophers ventured inside the Louisiana 20-yard line, they went 4-for-4 with four TDs.
4. Special teams must improve
Saturday wasn't a great day for the Gophers special teams. It started when Quentin Redding caught a first-quarter kickoff along the sideline, with his momentum taking him out of bounds at the 4. "If he jumps, catches it and lands out of bounds, we get the ball at the 35," Fleck said. "Instead, he got a little confused. I've got to coach it better.'' On his other kickoff return, Redding gained 11 yards to the 20. Mark Crawford averaged 43.7 yards on his three punts, but the Gophers missed on a chance to down the ball inside the Louisiana 10-yard line on one that went for a touchback.
5. Wolverines come calling
The level of competition ramps up tremendously this week when No. 2 Michigan comes to town for Saturday's 6:30 p.m. game, which will be broadcast nationally on NBC. The Wolverines (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) have given up only 30 points this season, fewest among FBS teams. They've allowed only three red-zone scores this season, and only one was a touchdown. Michigan, the two-time defending Big Ten champion, is coming off a 45-7 win at Nebraska in which the Wolverines amassed season highs in points and total yards (436).