One area where the Gophers have improved dramatically since the start of last season is their two-minute offense.
In three of four games, they've successfully driven down the field to get a field goal right before halftime. Emmit Carpenter hit a 45-yarder as time expired on the second quarter against Oregon State, and a 42-yarder in that same spot against Indiana State.
At Penn State last week, the Gophers got the ball at their own 13-yard line, leading 10-3 with 1:13 remaining in the second quarter. In previous years, they might have been content to go to the locker room with that seven-point lead. But one quick first down made the difference.
"My philosophy in general on that, if you can get to the 20-25-yard line, I'm not afraid to go try to get something, if you have a time-out or two left," coach Tracy Claeys said. "And if you don't, there's no sense in it. But a lot of that has to do with having a senior quarterback who controls things very well, and so this year, yeah."
Nate Wozniak drew a holding penalty, but Penn State came right back with a facemask penalty on Rodney Smith. The Gophers had their first down, and they were on their way. Mitch Leidner hit Drew Wolitarsky with three consecutive passes, Smith rushed for 15 more yards, and Carpenter hit a 35-yarder, leaving one second remaining in the half.
At the end of regulation, it wasn't a two-minute situation for the Gophers, but they successfully managed the clock on an 11-play, 58-yard drive that consumed 4:40. Carpenter's 37-yard field goal gave them a 23-20 lead with 54 seconds remaining.
Penn State still rallied for the win, of course. But the Gophers offense continues to build confidence in two-minute situations.
"Those are scenarios that we work all the time, two-minute drives, protecting the football," Leidner said. "I think everybody on offense understands what our goal is in those situations, People are playing fast, playing loose because we’ve been in that situation so many times. It’s easy to execute at that point."