It will be interesting what Gophers coach Jerry Kill’s reaction will be after he studies the film of the maroon and gold’s 23-20 overtime victory at Colorado State.
Kill might wonder why the Gophers converted only five of 17 third downs until the one that set up the winning field goal. And why the Gophers rushed for 180 yards and passed for 233, a total of 413 yards, yet seemed to struggle when it came to scoring touchdowns.
It took a key turnover to give the Gophers the opportunity to win the game on a field goal, one of three by Ryan Santoso.
While turnovers cost the Gophers a chance to upset then-No. 2 TCU in the season opener, it was a takeaway on defense — a fumble recovery when Scott Ekpe stripped the ball from Colorado State’s Dave Dawkins on the first play of overtime — that made the difference in this one. The fumble led to Santoso’s chip-shot field goal in a game that, like the TCU game, saw the Gophers playing much better in the second half.
However, the Gophers defense couldn’t lock down the game in the final minute, as the Rams marched 55 yards on eight plays in 55 seconds to set up a tying field goal at the end of regulation.
Like the TCU game, the Gophers offensive line was handled in the first half by Colorado State. It was a different story in the second half, and the result was that freshman Robert Smith ran a total of 21 times for 111 yards while Mitch Leidner completed 23 of 45 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns despite many drops and poor routes by the receivers. The two exceptions were sophomore Drew Woltarsky who caught nine passes for 114 yards and senior KJ Maye, who had six for 54 yards, including the touchdown that put the Gophers up in the final minute. Leidner also rushed 11 times for 49 yards.
The Gophers had to be fortunate that Colorado State All-America receiver Rashard Higgins missed the game after suffering an ankle injury in the Rams’ opening victory. His presence might have made a big difference in the Gophers winning this game vs. losing it.
Praise for Bridgewater
If there is one person capable of gauging a quarterback’s progress, it is Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who has worked with great signal-callers throughout his long career.
And Turner says that not only is Teddy Bridgewater coming along as expected, but the 2014 Vikings first-round draft pick is also looking like he has the capability of being one of the best quarterbacks that Turner has ever coached.
“We’re extremely happy with the way Teddy has come along,” Turner said in the buildup to Monday night’s season opener at San Francisco. “You look at how he was doing when we started the offseason and where he is now and he’s had an excellent preseason. He has been very consistent in all our practices in the offseason practices. Everything he has done has gotten ready to go play the season. The 16-game regular season is very different than your offseason and your preseason, but I think he’s really ready to go out and have a good year.”
Bridgewater completed 29 of 35 passes for 295 yards, one TD and no interceptions in an extremely effective preseason, one in which the Vikings went 4-1. That’s a completion percentage of 82.9 and a QB rating of 111.3, tremendous marks.
Turner was asked to compare him with some of the better quarterbacks he has coached and said that it can be difficult to compare such unique players, but Bridgewater has a very high ceiling.
“He’s so young that it’s really too early to make comparisons, but he has all the intangibles that all best players I’ve been around had,” Turner said. “He’s so into it, so alert, so instinctive. He’s proven that he’s a very accurate passer. I think it’s going to play out that he’s going to be one of the best guys that I’ve been around. … He has a great mix of some of the best guys I’ve been with.”
Better at reading defenses
Turner said Bridgewater has worked hard to improve his ability to read defenses this offseason, and it shows.
“I would say that’s probably the difference in him right now and when the season ended last year,” he said. “He’s had a season to see it, study it, gotten his feet wet in terms of playing in this league, and I think he has become a much better student of the game.”
While some worry about Bridgewater’s ability to connect on deep routes, Turner isn’t one of them.
“So far, so good,” he said. “The ones he has had an opportunity to hit in the preseason he hit. You know he’s done a good job here in practice. No one is great at them — it’s not a high-percentage throw — but he has given our guys a chance and our guys are running and believe they’re going to get a chance to catch a ball. I think we’ll make big plays in the passing game.”
Still, when it comes to Bridgewater, Turner is most pleased with how good of a person and teammate he is.
“That’s the best thing about him, we knew that the first time you spend your day with him,” Turner said. “He wants to be good, he treats people right, he’s very respectful, on top of that he’s a great competitor.”
• One of the best trades that Terry Ryan has made in his second tenure as Twins general manager is acquiring Kevin Jepsen from Tampa Bay for minor league starters Chih-Wei Hu and Alexis Tapia. Jepsen has a 2.39 ERA on the season and a 1.45 ERA over his first 20 appearances with the Twins. The righthanded reliever and fill-in closer for the injured Glen Perkins is making $1.1 million this season and is eligible for arbitration next year before becoming eligible for free agency in 2017.
• Obviously the Twins have bigger concerns right now as they are in the middle of a chase for a playoff berth, but their 73rd victory of the season Friday night assured them of avoiding 90 losses for the first time since 2011.
• The Gophers had four NFL draft choices this year. Tight end Maxx Williams (second round) will not start for the Ravens right away but will work behind first-string tight end Crockett Gillmore to develop. … Damien Wilson (fourth) made the 53-man cut with the Cowboys but is not expected to start right away at linebacker. … Running back David Cobb (fifth) got some bad news when he was placed on injured reserve with the designation to return, meaning he will miss at least eight games for the Titans. … Defensive back Cedric Thompson (fifth) was cut from the roster by the Dolphins but has been signed to their practice squad. … Offensive lineman Cameron Botticelli, an undrafted free agent, was released by the Chargers.
• Gophers basketball great Mychal Thompson not only has one son, Klay, who is an NBA champion with the Warriors, but another, Trayce, who hurt the Twins on Saturday night with two hits, a walk and an RBI for the White Sox. The outfielder is hitting .415 in 24 games. A third son, Mychel, previously played in the NBA and is now playing basketball in Italy.