Two next-day takeaways from the Gophers’ 17-12 Holiday Bowl victory over Washington State on Tuesday:
Offense: A trusted few
• Tracy Claeys and offensive coordinator Jay Johnson kept the game plan focused on a limited number of players. Only four skill-position players were heavily involved — QB Mitch Leidner, RBs Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks and WR Drew Wolitarsky — and only five gained more than 10 yards from scrimmage (WR Rashad Still and the four mentioned). Compare that to the Cougars, who had four players with at least four carries and eight with 10 or more yards receiving. The play-calling was creative at times (flea-flicker, run-pass option for Brooks), but the players involved stayed the same. Seventeen points is barely breathing in college football these days, but the Gophers used their most trusted players to stay ahead of Washington State.
Defense: All 11, and then some
• Washington State averaged 40.3 points and 497.6 yards per game during the regular season. Take away their final desperation (and ultimately meaningless) drive Tuesday and the Cougars had 224 yards and six points. That’s impressive, no doubt. But here’s more: WSU opened with a snappy drive, ending in a field goal after running up 76 yards. So between the opening drive and their last one, the Cougars had 148 yards in 10 drives as the Gophers defense dominated the heart of the game with dang near everyone contributing. Ten players had three or more tackles, led by LB Blake Cashman’s 12. Not included in those 10 are DL Steven Richardson and Gaelin Elmore who, while not piling up individual stats, helped the Gophers create a wall against the run; WSU averaged only 1.7 yards per carry. So call it an even dozen defenders who made a strong impact in Tuesday night’s upset.