In their season-opening victory over Buffalo last week, the Gophers played things close to the vest offensively, calling plays that avoided mistakes and turning the game over to the defense to protect a seven-point lead from halftime on in an eventual 17-7 victory.
So, might we see Minnesota’s offense loosen the reins against Oregon State on Saturday night?
“Um … … …,” offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca said Wednesday, his long pauses indicating he’s not about to divulge any secrets about their plans.
The Gophers will continue to use senior Conor Rhoda and sophomore Demry Croft as co-starters at quarterback, and Ciarrocca is eager to see how they’ll improve from the opener.
“The biggest thing we came away from last week is our details have to improve,” Ciarrocca said.
“As our details improve, so will the amount of volume that we carry. ... We’re going to do ‘A’ before we do ‘B.’ We’re going to do ‘B’ before we do ‘C.’ ”
Much of that will fall on Rhoda and Croft, who both led their only touchdown drives in the first quarter.
“I think we’ve grown a lot in just the three practices that we’ve had since the game against Buffalo,” Rhoda said, “and like Coach [P.J. Fleck] said, we’ve done a ton of individual work to correct some small things, so we will be ready for anything.”
Oregon’s air quality
With wildfires in Oregon’s Willamette Valley causing high levels of smoke, Oregon State practiced in its indoor facility on Wednesday after working outdoors on Tuesday.
Saturday night’s game still is on as scheduled — 9 p.m. Central — though the Pac-12 Conference on Tuesday said it will monitor the situation.
Moving the game’s time or date — and that of the Nebraska-Oregon game Saturday afternoon in Eugene — is still a possibity.
As of Wednesday afternoon, nothing had changed. Forecasted rain could provide some relief from the smoke.
“A couple times it might have been a little hard to catch your breath,” Oregon State junior linebacker Jonathan Willis said. “In a way, it’s like playing in Colorado — just high elevation.”
Fleck emphasizes turnover margin as arguably the most important factor in wins and losses. The Gophers defense forced one against Buffalo with an interception, but it missed on a few more opportunities to take the ball away.
Miami (Fla.) encouraged players to get takeaways by having them pass around a 10-karat, 36-inch gold “turnover chain” on the sidelines. Could there be any Gophers chains in the future?
“Our head coach, he’s fanatical,” defensive coordinator Robb Smith said laughing. “Every day is about the ball. So it’s engrained. I’m all for that stuff. The ball is everything.”