The Gophers will wake up in Boulder, Colo., on Saturday with no sacks through their first two games. It will be 273 days since the last time they have taken down an opposing quarterback.
Enough is enough. Is there anyone in maroon and gold who's ready to end this sack slump?
The Gophers defensive unit is overdue for one as the team prepares to face a Colorado offense that has had execution problems and could be vulnerable to a spirited rush.
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck spoke highly of his defense, particularly the linemen, before the start of the season. And that talent has been on display in practices against an equally talented and deep offensive line. Through two games, it has not translated into meetings at the quarterback.
This comes from a Gophers defense that returned 10 starters, including their top nine tacklers from 2020. Minnesota collected just eight sacks in seven games last season, but all the players responsible for those sacks are back, including lineman Boye Mafe, who led the team with 4½.
Who is going to be the first to get one? Linebackers Mariano Sori-Marin and Jack Gibbens have combined for 26 tackles and 2½ tackles for loss, with Gibbens credited with a quarterback hit. Will one of them get turned loose on a blitz? Mafe has seven tackles and two quarterback hits. Is it just a matter of time for him?
Tackling the quarterback is allowed in college football, isn't it?
The Gophers have been resigned to talk about getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, which can be effective but not as rewarding as getting quarterbacks to the ground. It has been a talking point as they prepare to face the Buffaloes with a chance to improve to 2-1 before they play host to Bowling Green next week.
"I won't discredit us as a whole to say we haven't gotten any pressure," lineman Micah Dew-Treadway said. "It can always be better. You can always change that. And that's really what we are talking to ourselves about. I won't discredit my guys, but we can get better."
Dew-Treadway also spoke of knowing where the rush lanes are and perfecting techniques to help them get home. They know why they have gone eight quarters of football this month, featuring 53 passing attempts by opposing QBs, without a sack.
Fleck, during a radio interview on Monday, said that it was difficult to blitz Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud in the season opener because of the firepower the Buckeyes had at the other skill positions. The Buckeyes still scorched them for four scores of more than 50 yards, though.
During an uninspiring 31-26 win over Miami (Ohio) last week, the RedHawks' Brett Gabbert attempted 29 passes without being sacked. Fleck said it was hard to get to Gabbert because he got rid of the ball so quickly.
Whether these are truths or convenient excuses, it will be hard for the Gophers to win on the road against a Power 5 opponent without getting to the quarterback.
"The ball has been coming out quick," Dew-Treadway said, "but I think over the last two games we haven't played a complete game in that aspect."
Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell is a former UCLA wide receiver. I remember the two touchdown passes he caught from Rick Neuheisel in the Bruins' 1984 Rose Bowl romp over Illinois. He likes to score but has a freshman quarterback in Brendon Lewis and an offensive line that's not a finished product. The offense has lacked precision in each of its first two games, leading Dorrell to say after his team's 10-7 loss last Saturday to fifth-ranked Texas A&M that there's much to fix.
It's not who you play but when you are playing them, and the Gophers have an opportunity to take advantage of a misfiring Buffaloes offense.
Lewis has thrown for just 191 yards in two games. Stopping the running game of Colorado (1-1) and making Lewis drop back to pass should give them chances to get him on the ground.
The Gophers need to enter Boulder and open a sack account, as they chase that elusive complete defensive game.