Mariano Sori-Marin's worst game of the season came in the 35-7 blowout loss at home to Iowa on Nov. 13.
The Gophers linebacker lasted just more than a quarter in the game, racking up two 15-yard penalties before a targeting ejection took away his helmet. That was a low point in a series of meh games from the starter, one of the few defensive players to return this year with significant playing time after often filling in for now NFL-linebacker Kamal Martin in 2019.
And yet Sori-Marin earned the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award after posting a career-high 18 tackles and a forced fumble in the 24-17 win last Saturday at Nebraska.
The difference, per the junior, was trusting that his teammates didn't need his help.
"I'm a little bit of a perfectionist, and I like things to be in order at all times with my approval," the finance major said. "So at times, maybe I was making sure that the proper check was here, this person made the proper check, the safety behind me made the proper check, and that was taking away from what I actually needed to do and what my actual job was, and now I wasn't in the correct position."
Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi said Sori-Marin felt the pressure of having to be "the guy" on defense, which prohibited him from showing just how capable he is. But the player's journey from the pits to the peaks this season has become a lesson in perseverance for the whole defense.
Now Sori-Marin just has to not only redo that personal best but improve on it at Wisconsin on Saturday.
"At the beginning of the season, I was not happy with my performance at all, and I think I've gotten better each and every week," Sori-Marin said. "But I haven't done anything that I couldn't have done at the beginning of the season or haven't done anything extraordinary. I'm just doing my job now."