Four Takeaways From the Gophers Way-Too-Close Victory Over Miami (OH)

PHOTO: AARON LAVINSKY – STAR TRIBUNE

It was a beautiful Saturday morning in Minneapolis, MN and 40,000+ packed into Huntington Bank Stadium to watch the Minnesota Gophers play against the Miami (OH) Redhawks for an 11 AM kickoff. After a slow start, Tanner Morgan, Trey Potts and Dylan Wright took over the first half.

But after grabbing a commanding 21-3 halftime lead, the Gophers came out for the second half as a shell of themselves. Miami (OH) mounted a comeback in the third quarter that would eventually pull them within a point (21-20). Still, Minnesota was able to stabilize their defense enough to ride Trey Potts to an eventual 31-26 victory that was WAY too close for comfort.

Here’s what I took away from the win.

1. Trey Potts is the new RB1

After Mohamed Ibrahim went down for the season with a leg injury vs Ohio State, we thought the Gopher offense would turn to a timeshare backfield that would feature at least three backs. Saturday, Fleck and Sanford proved us wrong. Potts took 20 of the 22 handoffs in the first half and continued as the obvious bell-cow back in the 2nd half.

Potts’ performance was one of the only positives to come out of Saturday’s game. Even behind a line that didn’t manhandle MAC competition like they should have, Trey battled for every yard and looked very good doing it. PJ Fleck rode him to victory, too.

How about these numbers?

2. Tanner Morgan looked good… in the first half

Tanner Morgan looked a lot like his 2019 self in the first half of this football game, throwing for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns on 8/11 passing. The 2nd half was not as fruitful, however. Morgan thrived off of passes to Texas A&M transfer, Dylan Wright, in the first half.

But Tanner’s first pass of the 2nd half threw Wright into a big hit and #16 on offense never returned to the game. That could have been a reason for Morgan’s back-half struggles. But with or without your top target, going 0/6 for 0 yards is never acceptable. This should have been a game that sent Tanner Morgan into another QB stratosphere. Instead, he faltered down the stretch and helped turn a blowout into a nail-biter.

So questions about Morgan’s ability will continue for at least another week.

3. Dylan Wright is the real deal

As mentioned before, we didn’t see much of new transfer wide receiver, Dylan Wright in the 2nd half, after he left the game with an injury early in the 3rd quarter. Morgan was never the same and it’s become clear that Wright is someone PJ Fleck and Co will rely heavily on, even after Chris Autman-Bell returns to the field.

Even after the passing offense came to a complete halt in the 2nd half, Wright finished the game with 73 yards and a touchdown on 3 catches. He now has 130 yards and 2 touchdowns on the season. Tanner Morgan has only thrown for 317 yards and 3 touchdowns total, on the season.

4. No pressure from new look D-line

The entire defense struggled in the second half but the defensive line rode the struggle bus all game and failed to apply any pressure against a MAC Miami (OH) team that gave up 2 sacks and 5 TFL’s to Cincinnati last week. If they can’t bring pressure vs lesser opponents, we should be very concerned about what they’ll do when Big Ten play starts back up.

There were a lot of positives to take away from the week 1 Ohio State game but defensive pressure wasn’t one of them. That clearly continued this week vs Miami (OH). If Joe Rossi can’t find a way to bring more pressure, it’s going to be a long season.

A win is a win…

At the end of the day, a victory counts no matter how much you win by and the 2019 Minnesota Gophers proved that when they turned way too close victories vs SDSU, Fresno State and Georgia Southern into an 11-2 Outback Bowl success story.

A successful 2021 will clearly rely on the same types of improvement.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan