He sifted through the rubble that was the Gophers' 14-10 loss to Bowling Green on Saturday, pored over the wreckage of his team losing as 31-point favorites against the Falcons and took in the ruins of an offense that produced only one meaningful drive against a Mid-American Conference foe.
Instead of trying to forget what might be the low point of his five years as Gophers coach, P.J. Fleck on Monday wanted to pull something tangible from what transpired at Huntington Bank Stadium in front of a disgusted Homecoming crowd.
"Everything that could have gone wrong in that game, went wrong and you don't put it down and check it down as a bad one because that's against our culture and program,'' Fleck said. "You don't check it off as a bad one and then move on. Nope. You learn from it because there is so much value in the loss. If you truly dissect it, you will get better.''
The dissection and learning for the team began with Sunday's practice, and the Gophers will try to fix things quickly with resumption of Big Ten play starting Saturday at Purdue.
"We've just got to get better,'' Fleck said. "I'm never one to overreact about one game. It's one game. We have a one-game season – always. We wanted to be 1-0 in the Bowling Green season. It did not work out. It's unfortunate. There's a lot of reasons why it happened.''
The first and foremost reason came on offense. Quarterback Tanner Morgan endured his most difficult day, completing five of 13 passes for only 59 yards, throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble. The run game that had produced nine touchdowns in the first three games found the end zone only once. And Bowling Green's twists, stunts and blitzes were too much for Minnesota's offensive line, which gave up four sacks.
"This isn't about just the O-line, this isn't about just the quarterback, this isn't about just the wideouts, or just the running backs, in this particular game, it's about all of us,'' Fleck said.
Fixing the passing game would appear to be the top priority for Fleck and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford Jr. Morgan is averaging 18 passes attempted and 174 passing yards this season, the lowest numbers of his career since taking over the starting job in 2018. That's a huge drop-off from his 2019 season, when he was named honorable mention All-Big Ten after averaging 250.2 yards per game and throwing 30 TD passes. Of course, Morgan had future NFL players Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman as his primary targets.
On Sunday, Fleck wanted his team to take the lessons from the loss to Bowling Green but move on to what's ahead, beginning Saturday at Purdue.
"Twenty-five percent this year of Power Five teams have lost to a Group of Five or FCS team. That's one in four, so you're not alone,'' he said. "It's a loss. Is Ohio State a good loss? It's a loss. Is Bowling Green a bad loss? It's a loss.''
At 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the Big Ten, the Gophers have a big hill to climb to become a factor in the West Division race. Fleck told his team of instances of Power Five teams losing to Group of Five or FCS opponents and still winning division titles.
In the past five seasons, that happened with Stanford of the Pac-12 in 2017 with a loss to San Diego State, Pittsburgh of the ACC with a loss to Central Florida in 2018 and Northwestern of the Big Ten with a loss to Akron in 2018. To have any hope of that, the Gophers will have to play much better, in a hurry.
"I'm not sure in the first four games I've had a team have more of an inconsistent spectrum of the Ohio State game to the Bowling Green game, and the Colorado game after the Miami game,'' Fleck said.