Gophers coach P.J. Fleck held up a long notecard, filled with his scribbles.
He'd written down everything that went wrong for the Gophers in their 38-35 double-overtime victory at Fresno State this past weekend for a team meeting. Whether fumbles, penalties, muffed punts or dropped passes, the coach wanted the errors addressed before this Saturday's home game against Georgia Southern.
The Gophers defense, for example, held Fresno State to 57 rushing yards, but penalties nearly derailed that. Fleck said only one — senior defensive end Tai'yon Devers' facemask personal foul away from the ball on a third-and-22 play in the second quarter — was undisciplined. Others were unintentional, such as sophomore safety Jordan Howden's holding call on third-and-8 in the third quarter and freshman linebacker Braelen Oliver's roughing the passer penalty on third-and-goal in the first overtime.
Fleck said he'll take those "hustle" penalties if it means his players are playing assertively. But he also said if those three penalties that all allowed scores don't happen, it's a different game.
"It's heavy for us, and it came at the most influential times," Fleck said. "And there were so many times that we could have taken advantage of that game, taken over that game, that we didn't. … We've almost beat ourselves both weeks.
"Just small details that we've got to be able to clean up. But we can clean them up at 2-0. It's better than being clean and at 0-2."
Tight end usage
The Gophers' best drive at Fresno State was the first, when they covered 75 yards in 11 plays in just over six minutes. Sophomore receiver Rashod Bateman caught the 15-yard touchdown pass to end it, but the first two passes of the drive went to sophomore tight end Jake Paulson for 19 yards.
Fleck has not used tight ends often in the passing game, including only eight catches in 2018 and two so far this season.
"In our offense, you've got to be able to put your hand in the ground, you've got to be able to block a six-technique [lineman or linebacker lined up directly over the tight end], you've got to be able to run-block very physically. But you also have to be able to be athletic enough and catch the ball well enough to be able to be in our passing game," Fleck said. "… Guys have to be able to earn that part, be able to be more physical, be able to do the whole thing and not just go out there to be a specialized person in something."
O-line play improves
Fleck said he thought the offensive line played much better in Week 2 than Week 1, helping the run game pick up 146 yards. But the coach wants to see more, with sophomore quarterback Tanner Morgan still enduring four sacks.
"[The linemen] work their tails off every day to be able to give me the most amount of time, to be able to get the running backs … a little more space to go make a 2-yard run into a 20-yard run, just give them that extra inch," Morgan said. "… It's not easy to be a 400-pound man and get in a stance and block for 60 minutes like that."