Gophers fans were frustrated by a lot of things Saturday, watching the offense produce just 10 points against Kent State, even in victory. The Gophers averaged a mere 2.4 yards per rush, often between the tackles, even against an overloaded box.
Many were curious: Where was the jet sweep package that offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover has used to such success in the past against the likes of Nebraska and Iowa? Why were the Gophers so determined to stay up the middle?
Limegrover’s explanation Tuesday was fairly nuanced. It sounds like Kent State, with its multiple defensive fronts, had the patchwork offensive line and inexperienced tight end corps a bit flummoxed. Limegrover was careful not to criticize players, but I think this was a case where there were opportunities missed.
“We weren't going to spread it out against them because they did so many different things,” Limegrover said. “They were so multiple that it's hard to be able to put your finger on -- you want to make sure that you have people blocked. It was almost from snap to snap when you were preparing for them, the more you spread out, the more you started to get headaches trying to figure out where it was all fitting.”
“We didn't play well up front. I think that's pretty well documented. Even with the way it looked, there were some things we didn't take advantage of. But also, what concerned us was a team that -- we're able to do our best on the perimeter when we have a good idea of what the defense is going to do -- when from snap to snap to snap it's a different picture for those kids as they're trying to go out and block. That's when somebody gets missed. That's when the big plays happen on the other side of scrimmage.”
In some ways, the Gophers will be happy to get to the Big Ten schedule because they’ll be facing defenses they know pretty well. Colorado State, with its new coaching staff, did things completely different than what Minnesota’s coaches expected. And Kent State brought a couple unexpected wrinkles, too.
“We study it every week,” Limegrover said. “The one thing that Kent State did a good job is they had done two things that they hadn't ever shown before. And so we took a while to try and get that worked out, but then eventually we did. It was amazing how some of the older kids picked it up. A couple of the younger kids … struggled a little bit. That's our job: ‘OK, here, we're going to show this to you now so when we get it in the future, now you're a veteran at this.”
“They played real heavy on us, and those are the things that give you some trouble ... and they squeezed everything. One of the things that we did a little bit differently, that we really like, is we ran a little bit more, quote-unquote, outside zone or stretch zone. That helped us a little bit because they were jamming things in. … It doesn't necessarily always have to be the jet sweep, but we're working on some of that stuff, as well.”