Minnesota Gophers upended at home by Maryland


In their Big Ten opener, the Minnesota Gophers were ousted by the Maryland Terrapins 31-24 at TCF Bank Stadium.

Looking at the score alone may lead to you creating your own assumption about what happened in this game. However, the narrative of this game was that the Minnesota Gophers were outplayed in every facet of the game. They were torn apart defensively by a hobbled offensive unit who were down to their third string quarterback. Minnesota’s offense, outside of a few drives, was extremely stagnant and inefficient too.

From the opening kick-off the Terps offense was giving the Gopher defense fits. Keep in mind, Minnesota was a top-five defense in the nation coming into this game. That did not frighten nor hinder Maryland’s offensive gameplan. They ran a read option, which consistently fooled the Gopher defense.

Maryland commanded the first quarter, holding onto the ball for more than ten minutes. By the time the quarter was over, Minnesota was only beginning their second offensive series. The Terrapins only had a touchdown to show for their efforts. With the score at 7-0, the Gopher offense seemed to wake up a bit in the second quarter. Minnesota scored ten points on a Rodney Smith run and a 41-yard Emmit Carpenter field goal.

Max Bortenschlager and the Terps countered every punch the Gophers threw, with ten second quarter points of their own. The 17-10 Maryland halftime lead does not tell the entire tale however. The Terps had 132 more total yards of offense, as they dominated both the ground and passing attacks by a substantial margin.

Going into half number two, the Gopher defense had yet to give up any second half points in 2017. They were able to hold that streak through quarter number three as well. It seemed as though Minnesota came out of the locker room ready to put their foot on the gas offensively. Conor Rhoda led a spectacular drive in the third quarter that led to a touchdown pass to Brandon Lingen.  Rhoda made three fantastic throws on said drive, two to Tyler Johnson and the third to Lingen in the endzone. Heading into the fourth, the score was tied 17 all.

To start the fourth, Maryland marched down the field to snap Minnesota’s second half scoring streak. With the score 24-17, the Gophers were dying for a score to tie the game. It seemed like the Gopher drive would stall short after an offensive pass interference call set them back 16 yards. However, Conor Rhoda and Eric Carter erased the detrimental penalty:

That stupendous throw and catch paved the way for a Shannon Brooks goal line touchdown. Game was then tied 24-24 with a little over three minutes remaining.

No matter how good the Gopher offense played on the previous drive, it had no impact on Minnesota’s defensive momentum. They allowed Maryland to walk down the field into field goal range with time running down. The final haymaker was dealt, again by the read option, in the form of a Ty Johnson 34-yard touchdown scamper. The Terps now held the lead 31-24 with a shade over one minute left.

The following drive, Rhoda threw an awful interception to seal the victory for Maryland. Final score being 31-24.

Simply put, this was an awful loss for Minnesota. They came out completely flat against a team that they were better than all-around. Instead they were totally outplayed by a lesser opponent, in my opinion.

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Minnesota’s offense could not get their run game going at all throughout the game. Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith combined for a paltry 74 yards on 30 combined carries. A lone bright spot, were the few drives led by Conor Rhoda’s arm. There were at least two drives resulting in touchdowns that were directly related to Rhoda’s passes. That being said, there were some less than shining moments from Rhoda too. He threw two very avoidable interceptions, one to seal the Maryland victory.

However, the most glaring issue was the horrific performance from the Gopher defense. In total, they surrendered 416 total yards, 262 of them on the ground alone. A completely inexcusable number after their previous three performances. To me, it seemed like every Gopher defender was anticipating an inside run play. Maryland would then use the read option to jump outside the tackles and get to the edges. Despite being beaten on this trick over and over, the Gophers never made an adjustment. It was a truly puzzling defensive effort. To make matters worse, Antoine Winfield Jr. left the game due to injury.

Next: Five things we learned in the win over Tampa Bay

If the Gophers continue to play as they did today against the rest of the Big Ten, they are in deep trouble. Today was just an all-around dreadful showing on both sides of the ball. The Gophers will have to re-group quickly as they face the upstart Purdue Boilermakers next Saturday in West Lafayette, Indiana. That game will be at 1:30 Central Time and can be seen nationally on ESPN2.