Don’t Blame Brock Walker.

Photo: Julio Cortez - Associated Press

Friday night, the Gophers held a 17 point lead as they entered the fourth quarter against a Maryland Terrapin team that had just lost to Northwestern by 40 the week before. Minnesota had scored 31 unanswered points when that final period started and some hope was suddenly shining on the 2020 season…

The Terrapins racked up 10 penalties, 2 turnovers (including a fumble at the goal line), and they lost the time of possession battle by 7 minutes. Minnesota’s offense totaled 44 points and cultivated 451 yards of offense. Yet the Gophers found a way to lose somehow, and they did it in the most Minnesota of ways.

2020 has been nothing but fickle and it’s changed the landscape on life, but there’s been one constant: Minnesota sports teams finding different ways to pulverize our hearts… this time through an extra point.

Down 7 in OT of a must win game, Minnesota needed to score a touchdown AND KICK AN EXTRA POINT to extend overtime. Seth Green took a goal line snap and walked into the endzone, pulling the Gophers within one point of that second OT…

… but then Brock Walker missed the extra point kick. Game over.

But don’t blame Walker. Things happens and he never should have been in that position. There’s three reasons why the Gophers spit the bit vs Maryland and none of them are on Brock.

The Defense is Horrid

Fans love to be shortsighted and emotional, when picking scapegoats in a losing effort. The easy choice from Friday night would be the kicker, who missed an easy extra point he’s probably kicked 50,000 times. But the Gophers should never have been in a position where they needed an extra point in OT, just to stay alive vs the Terrapins.

Maryland posted 675 yards of total offense, after putting up just 207 last week vs Northwestern. The Gopher’s couldn’t create any resistance in the run game and the secondary consistently surrendered explosive plays.

It all accumulated into a Maryland offensive performance the Terps haven’t seen in years. RB Jake Funk rushed for 221 yards, the most from a Terrapin since 1998. QB Taulia Tagovailoa became the first Maryland QB to pass for 300 yards since 2013.

He also became the first Big Ten player with a 30-yard rushing touchdown and a 75 yard passing touchdown in the same quarter, since 2002 (Asad Abdul Kaliq – Minnesota), according to the broadcast. There’s no excuse for defense like this. When you go on the road and your own offense puts up 44 points, you need to win that game.

The majority of this “L” falls on the inept defense of the Minnesota Gophers, especially early on. If Fleck doesn’t alter something defensively, Minnesota might not win a game.

Fleck’s Complacent Play Calling in 4th

PJ Fleck doesn’t have many flaws but this one is a biggie. Up 17 in the 4th quarter, Fleck and Mike Sanford completely changed their playcalling mentality vs Maryland and it cost the game. We see it all the time in sports; a team builds a lead and decides to play risk-free… but by doing so, they sacrifice what got them there in the first place.

At one point, late in the fourth quarter, the Gophers had totalled just ONE yard after back to back three and outs. Tanner Morgan threw the ball just 15 times ALL GAME, with arguably one of the best wide receiving duos in college football. The “play not to lose” mentality ultimately cost the Gophers, who couldn’t muster any points in the 4th quarter. Inexcusable.

Go For Two

I know… this is the “monday morning QB” take of this blog but the Gophers shouldn’t have tried kicking the tying XP at all. They should have gone for the kill. Your starting kicker is out, you’ve allowed nearly 700 yards and 45 points through one overtime and you lost a 17-point lead in the 4th quarter.

Go for the victory while you have a chance.

Why would you want to put your terrible and exhausted defense back out on that field? Why wouldn’t you hand off to your RB that’s run for 200 plus yards.. or maybe throw to your All American WR? Heck, you could run the same wildcat play with Seth Green, that just scored you a touchdown.

Sure, Walker was 6/6 on XP’s and 1/1 on FG’s in this game but that’s not the point. “You play to win the game”, Coach Dungy once said… and Fleck had that chance but played conservative, which shouldn’t shock anyone who watched that 4th quarter.

This loss was NOT on Brock Walker’s missed XP. It falls on a terrible defense, scared offensive play calling and a failure to recognize your team’s weaknesses.

Stephen Strom | Minnesota Sports Fan