Big Dan & Co. vs. Northwestern

rockford

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When I watch a game, I watch it like a fan. Some guys are able to dissect a live game and tell you exactly what's happening in real time. I'm not one of those guys. All I get is a general idea of what's going on in the various little games within the game. It takes a few replays before I fully appreciate what's happening.

For instance, I was struck by how little effort we put into trying to run the ball against Northwestern. I didn't realize we ran only four times in the 15 plays we managed in the first quarter.

I noticed our OL was having a very difficult time getting much movement up front. I didn't realize how thoroughly outmuscled our guys were by the Wildcats.

I though out OL was playing poorly. I didn't realize it was -- in the immortal words of the fantastic Mr. Fox -- a clustercuss.

Once again, I focussed on RT Faalele, RG Andries and LG Olson. I almost wished I hadn't.

In the first quarter, our three subjects scored an incredible 58% run blocking. Pass blocking was better, but only in the way that a massive heart attack is better than a slow, lingering death. These guys scored 73% pass blocking.

Our failures were manifold.
• On our second pass of the game, Faalele and Andries appeared to have never seen a E/DT stunt before. Both guys got free and flushed QB Morgan out of the pocket and forced an incompletion.
• On the next play, Andries just plain got outmuscled, allowing another QB pressure.
• On the next play, LT Donnell Greene got beat silly on the inside. Olson, who was mostly unattended, failed to pick up the rusher. Morgan still got rid of the ball ... which WR Bateman dropped, negating a certain first down.
• On the second play of our second possession, Faalele got beat outside, and Olson got beat inside. Morgan still managed to hit WR Johnson for a nice gain.

Of course, on the next play, with a RB assigned to help Faalele, Morgan decided to throw into double coverage, resulting in an interception on our 44-yard line, and a couple minutes later Northwestern had a 7-0 lead.

The ensuing kickoff bounced out of bounds, giving us good field position. We passed on the first two plays, and our three guys got the job done. BUT, on the second play, deposed RT Schlueter, now disguised as a TE, completely whiffed on his pass blocking assignment, and the pass was batted down.

On third and seven, Northwestern showed seven and rushed five. We blocked none. Morgan was hit as he started the throwing motion, causing the ball to roll away. It was originally called a fumble, and although that was overturned, we still had to punt.

For the quarter:
• Faalele: 75% run blocking, 73% pass blocking
• Andries: 50% run blocking, 73% pass blocking
• Olson: 50% run blocking, 73% pass blocking

We had a game's worth of failed assignments in our first 15 plays.

JTG
 
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MNVCGUY

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Not surprised at what you are finding, it looked like the O-Line was really struggling all game. You aren't evaluating Greene but he got beat many many times and was instrumental in one of our turnovers when he totally failed to block his guy at all.
 

Pompous Elitist

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Seemed like most(not all) of the problems with the QB stemmed from poor blocking. Wisconsin is certainly going to do similar things the question is whether the guys are getting better prepared.
 

WorkingMyTailOff

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Yes considering the protection Morgan made some nice throws minus the bad interception when he threw to Johnson with underneath coverage.
I am curious why Schlueter played the TE role as he struggled compared to Beebe and Paulson (both played really well against Purdue).
 

rockford

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Yes considering the protection Morgan made some nice throws minus the bad interception when he threw to Johnson with underneath coverage.
I am curious why Schlueter played the TE role as he struggled compared to Beebe and Paulson (both played really well against Purdue).
I wondered the same, since I've remarked on several occasions about how well our TEs block. Did they think Schlueter's size was needed?

Of course, I've also remarked how well our OL has worked together. That was nowhere evident against Northwestern. The stunts they picked up flawlessly in the past seemed to throw 'em for a loop. But maybe even more alarming was the frequency we were simply outmuscled.

It appeared we weren't interested in trying to establish the ground game, even though Northwestern is only ranked #33 in run defense.

JTG
 

WorkingMyTailOff

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I wondered the same, since I've remarked on several occasions about how well our TEs block. Did they think Schlueter's size was needed?

Of course, I've also remarked how well our OL has worked together. That was nowhere evident against Northwestern. The stunts they picked up flawlessly in the past seemed to throw 'em for a loop. But maybe even more alarming was the frequency we were simply outmuscled.

It appeared we weren't interested in trying to establish the ground game, even though Northwestern is only ranked #33 in run defense.

JTG
I have to think that with how NW’s secondary was banged up that they thought they could pick them apart with passing, but you are right the Gopher front struggled with the NW stunts all game.
 

Gophers_4life

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The misuse of the TE position in this offense is mind-boggling and frustrating, for me. Now they have Sam Schluter wearing #48, lined up as a TE and he did a very SO-SO job of blocking NW's DE, on the plays I observed. I just don't get it. Although it is interesting to see ... #44 Beebe honestly looks about the same size as Schlueter!

Most of the time our TE always stay in to block. They only occasionally go out for routes, and usually don't get a ball thrown to them, on regular passing plays.

That means it's 3 WR going against 7 guys in coverage.



Maybe this stuff worked in the MAC. But I don't agree with it so far in the Big Ten.

If our defense plays its butt off for a third straight game, and our offense is as inept as it was against NW .... then I think we might want to think about dismissing Ciarrocca in favor of someone who knows how to run a regular Big Ten offense.
 

rockford

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To a fairly large extent, I don't mind what we've been doing with our TEs. But I do think there is room for more production there.

For the most part, we've been getting some solid blocking from these guys, to the point where that's all opposing defenses expect us to use them for. When we've targeted TEs (the two occasions I can think of in the last several games), they've been open, and one of the catches was for a TD.

I agree that if we start targeting these guys more often it may open up some other things.

JTG
 

WorkingMyTailOff

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The misuse of the TE position in this offense is mind-boggling and frustrating, for me. Now they have Sam Schluter wearing #48, lined up as a TE and he did a very SO-SO job of blocking NW's DE, on the plays I observed. I just don't get it. Although it is interesting to see ... #44 Beebe honestly looks about the same size as Schlueter!

Most of the time our TE always stay in to block. They only occasionally go out for routes, and usually don't get a ball thrown to them, on regular passing plays.

That means it's 3 WR going against 7 guys in coverage.



Maybe this stuff worked in the MAC. But I don't agree with it so far in the Big Ten.

If our defense plays its butt off for a third straight game, and our offense is as inept as it was against NW .... then I think we might want to think about dismissing Ciarrocca in favor of someone who knows how to run a regular Big Ten offense.
Have to disagree with you on Kirk C and his offense. I think the offense is more interesting and even with the youth of the Oline and skill positions gaining more per game compared to the previous three years. I do think there have been games like the NW where with better execution the team would have scored more and should have won the game. While this is partly the coaches fault, the players have to take better care of the ball and remember their blocking assignments. This has to improve next year if we want to compete in the West.
Here are the yards over the past four years and you see that 2018 has the highest yardage total per game on average.
  • 2018 rushing 1760 passing 2458 total 4218 (two less games and 383 yards per game)
  • 2017 rushing 2187 passing 1513 total 3700 (one less game and 308 yards per game)
  • 2016 rushing 2387 passing 2257 total 4644 includes bowl game (357 yards per game)
  • 2015 rushing 1873 passing 2793 total 4666 includes bowl game (359 yards per game)
 

rockford

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Have to disagree with you on Kirk C and his offense. I think the offense is more interesting and even with the youth of the Oline and skill positions gaining more per game compared to the previous three years. I do think there have been games like the NW where with better execution the team would have scored more and should have won the game. While this is partly the coaches fault, the players have to take better care of the ball and remember their blocking assignments. This has to improve next year if we want to compete in the West.
Here are the yards over the past four years and you see that 2018 has the highest yardage total per game on average.
  • 2018 rushing 1760 passing 2458 total 4218 (two less games and 383 yards per game)
  • 2017 rushing 2187 passing 1513 total 3700 (one less game and 308 yards per game)
  • 2016 rushing 2387 passing 2257 total 4644 includes bowl game (357 yards per game)
  • 2015 rushing 1873 passing 2793 total 4666 includes bowl game (359 yards per game)
Thanks for the data, WMTO. Supports the "eye test" that the O is improved, especially the passing game. Being without our top two RBs (top three at times) has slowed the ground game this year, but I think that's gonna bounce back in a big way next year. For the most part I really like our OL foundation.

JTG
 

WiddleWatkins

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Firing Kirk C would be a huge mistake. I don't know how you could watch the games this year and not see the improvement. Youth may not be an excuse for the defense that we can accept, but the offense has a lot of freshman playing and mistakes should be expected. Our O line has steadily gotten better all year long, our WR position is as strong as I've seen it in my lifetime and we've seen flashes of competency from both our QBs this year. Going back to the WMU days TEs just aren't that big of a part of his offense outside blocking, although I expect that will change as we see BSF hit the field next year. If anything I'm giving Kirk an extension. This offense is going to be legit going forward.
 

MNVCGUY

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Maybe this stuff worked in the MAC. But I don't agree with it so far in the Big Ten.

If our defense plays its butt off for a third straight game, and our offense is as inept as it was against NW .... then I think we might want to think about dismissing Ciarrocca in favor of someone who knows how to run a regular Big Ten offense.
Nothing personal but this is one of the dumber things I have read in this forum and that is saying a lot. Our offense is loaded with youth and inexperience, playing without its top 2 RB, using freshmen at QB, and playing freshman on the O-Line, and yet is still performing better than the offense has around here in a long time.

Almost the entire unit will be back again next year as well so there is no real reason to think they won't be able to improve on this years production next season. Especially if we are able to add a healthy Smith and Brooks into the mix as well. The defense needs to be fixed, and if the last two games are any indication, we may be making progress in that department. The offense should be just fine.
 

SPEGOPHER

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I’ve also been frustrated by our lack of commitment to the run game, but I was wondering how many of those passes come from Morgan’s read? I guess I don’t know how much of it is called play action vs. RPO.

Definitely agree that Kirk is the man for the job, and it’s clear that our offense is moving in the right direction with a lot of great pieces. I also agree that there is more room for TE involvement / an overall increase in creativity. I’d like to see more route concepts off of play action besides straight slants and a lot less chuck it up action. Adding a QB we feel confident running with would also make us tougher to defend because the keep is there a lot of the time.
 

Gophers_4life

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Have to disagree with you on Kirk C and his offense. I think the offense is more interesting and even with the youth of the Oline and skill positions gaining more per game compared to the previous three years. I do think there have been games like the NW where with better execution the team would have scored more and should have won the game. While this is partly the coaches fault, the players have to take better care of the ball and remember their blocking assignments. This has to improve next year if we want to compete in the West.
Here are the yards over the past four years and you see that 2018 has the highest yardage total per game on average.
  • 2018 rushing 1760 passing 2458 total 4218 (two less games and 383 yards per game)
  • 2017 rushing 2187 passing 1513 total 3700 (one less game and 308 yards per game)
  • 2016 rushing 2387 passing 2257 total 4644 includes bowl game (357 yards per game)
  • 2015 rushing 1873 passing 2793 total 4666 includes bowl game (359 yards per game)
But that doesn't work. Because you have games like Maryland, Nebraska, Illinois, where we were getting our a__es kicked ... so the other team started just playing soft and letting us chunk yards, knowing we could never catch up in the score.


It's a nice statline ... one Kirk C I'm sure would throw up in his defense of why he should keep his job .... but what matters is wins. What matters is the margin of points. It doesn't matter if we score 30 points, when we need 50 to win. And then when the defense does hold our opponent to 20, we can only score 10? Etc.
 

Gophers_4life

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Firing Kirk C would be a huge mistake. I don't know how you could watch the games this year and not see the improvement. Youth may not be an excuse for the defense that we can accept, but the offense has a lot of freshman playing and mistakes should be expected. Our O line has steadily gotten better all year long, our WR position is as strong as I've seen it in my lifetime and we've seen flashes of competency from both our QBs this year. Going back to the WMU days TEs just aren't that big of a part of his offense outside blocking, although I expect that will change as we see BSF hit the field next year. If anything I'm giving Kirk an extension. This offense is going to be legit going forward.
But see right there (bolded) makes me completely dismiss your post. The OL had a serious regression against NW ... partly costing our offense. And that was with six OL blocking for a solid part of the snaps. Maybe they just did that because Greene was hurt, but they didn't want to put Schlueter in at left OT full time? I don't get it myself ... I usually think that it's better to have four players running routes (plus the RB blocking or going out late) on regular passing plays. But Kirk C has obviously buttered his bread on this idea that the TE position is really just a glorified sixth OL position.
 

Gophers_4life

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yet is still performing better than the offense has around here in a long time.
You'll take offensive yardard or offensive points, while ignoring margin of points and wins? That's moronic to me. But you do you.

The offense should be just fine.
Hope so. For one thing, it's Minnesota, so we're always going to be a power running team. But I just don't know if I'm sold on this sending 3 WR out against 7 coverage defenders idea. I think it only works when you've got Big Ten talent at WR and are playing against MAC defenses. We will see ..
 

WiddleWatkins

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But see right there (bolded) makes me completely dismiss your post. The OL had a serious regression against NW ... partly costing our offense. And that was with six OL blocking for a solid part of the snaps. Maybe they just did that because Greene was hurt, but they didn't want to put Schlueter in at left OT full time? I don't get it myself ... I usually think that it's better to have four players running routes (plus the RB blocking or going out late) on regular passing plays. But Kirk C has obviously buttered his bread on this idea that the TE position is really just a glorified sixth OL position.
The offensive line has gotten better from the start of the season until now. I really don't think that's debatable or you haven't been paying attention. They didn't play well against Northwestern who has a real solid front seven. You can't dismiss the progress because of one bad game. There are more data points of progress on the oline then steps back.
 

#2Gopher

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I just don't get it. We know that we are young. We know that we don't have much depth. We know that we are having injuries issues. Yet people continue to want these freshman etc., for the most part to compete with more highly recruited talent and upper class men. We're not going to get those highly recruited guys until what we have begin to show promise that it can be done. We're not Norte Dame etc. so we have that going against us.

I believe that when we do better next year and the following year we'll be able to recruit better. The three star guys who do well in the next year or so we'll hopefully show the 4 and 5 star guys that yes, these are good coaches and Minnesota is on the way up. We do have to take one step at a time. Doesn't happen overnight.

No I don't like losing, but bitching, not looking at the facts, complaining like what is going on this board along with the basketball board is stupid.
 

Governor Sibley

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Northwestern was running the same twists and we just couldn't sort them out.
 

Gophers_4life

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I believe that when we do better next year and the following year we'll be able to recruit better.
Sure, that's the (eternal) hope.

Just would be nice to win this year, too. This year ain't over. Still have one more game ... a big one. Chance to go to a low level bowl too, which would be a massive step change improvement in "look back" take on the season. Here's hoping!
 

GophersInIowa

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The offensive line has gotten better from the start of the season until now. I really don't think that's debatable or you haven't been paying attention. They didn't play well against Northwestern who has a real solid front seven. You can't dismiss the progress because of one bad game. There are more data points of progress on the oline then steps back.
Well said and welcome
 

rockford

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But that doesn't work. Because you have games like Maryland, Nebraska, Illinois, where we were getting our a__es kicked ... so the other team started just playing soft and letting us chunk yards, knowing we could never catch up in the score.


It's a nice statline ... one Kirk C I'm sure would throw up in his defense of why he should keep his job .... but what matters is wins. What matters is the margin of points. It doesn't matter if we score 30 points, when we need 50 to win. And then when the defense does hold our opponent to 20, we can only score 10? Etc.
With most of those games, we weren't rolling up yards and points because opposing defenses were sitting back and playing prevent. We ended with lopsided scores because our defense couldn't stop anybody. Our offense couldn't keep pace, because opponents were actually, you know, playing defense. We weren't.

In most cases our offense kept us in position to be in the game, and our defense let us down miserably. For the most part, our offense has earned what it achieved. There were few if any gifts.

The offensive performance against Northwestern is a big outlier from what we've seen this year.

JTG
 

WorkingMyTailOff

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With most of those games, we weren't rolling up yards and points because opposing defenses were sitting back and playing prevent. We ended with lopsided scores because our defense couldn't stop anybody. Our offense couldn't keep pace, because opponents were actually, you know, playing defense. We weren't.

In most cases our offense kept us in position to be in the game, and our defense let us down miserably. For the most part, our offense has earned what it achieved. There were few if any gifts.

The offensive performance against Northwestern is a big outlier from what we've seen this year.

JTG
Totally agree and even in the NW game the offense earned yards (kind of like the OSU game), but they didn't convert those yards into points often enough because of mistakes and turnovers.
 

rockford

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Totally agree and even in the NW game the offense earned yards (kind of like the OSU game), but they didn't convert those yards into points often enough because of mistakes and turnovers.
Good point. We moved the ball (306 yards, 18 first downs), just didn't score.

JTG
 

MNVCGUY

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You'll take offensive yardard or offensive points, while ignoring margin of points and wins? That's moronic to me. But you do you.

Hope so. For one thing, it's Minnesota, so we're always going to be a power running team. But I just don't know if I'm sold on this sending 3 WR out against 7 coverage defenders idea. I think it only works when you've got Big Ten talent at WR and are playing against MAC defenses. We will see ..
My post was in regards to you even floating the idea that Kirk C should get replaced. I am in no way implying that the offense has been great but how anyone can watch what is going on with that unit and not be excited about the future is beyond me.
 

Pete smith

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My post was in regards to you even floating the idea that Kirk C should get replaced. I am in no way implying that the offense has been great but how anyone can watch what is going on with that unit and not be excited about the future is beyond me.
Really interesting to see the evaluation of the OL. Here I thought we had an elite OL coach. Gordy Shaw where are you? We WOULD be so much better with a “Shaw line”.
 

rockford

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Really interesting to see the evaluation of the OL. Here I thought we had an elite OL coach. Gordy Shaw where are you? We WOULD be so much better with a “Shaw line”.
Not quite sure what you're saying here. My sarcasm meter may need to be recalibrated.

I've been saying for 5-6 weeks now (since I started critiquing first Faalele, then more of the OL) that it appears to be a very well-coached outfit. In general, these guys seem to know what they're supposed to do, and get it done at an acceptable success rate. Up until the NW game, their response to twists and blitzes has been very good. They had been doing a great job working as a unit, handing off rushers when appropriate, picking up stunts, etc.

I can't say with any certainty what happened against NW. Were the Wildcats just too damn strong for us? Just a bad day ... for most of the OL? Don't know. But I've seen enough in the last 5-6 games to know I like our chances going forward with our line coach and our young linemen. We need more bodies to step up and fill in next year, but that's my only question mark regarding the OL.

JTG
 

dpodoll68

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Really interesting to see the evaluation of the OL. Here I thought we had an elite OL coach. Gordy Shaw where are you? We WOULD be so much better with a “Shaw line”.
All we need to do is hire the Maple Grove HS OL coach! Rose Bowl here we come!
 

rockford

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Our guys picked it up in the second quarter, and -- if not for short defensive throwback to the Smith era -- we would have been all even at the half.

For the quarter, our guys were 88% run blocking, 94% pass blocking. The failures were fewer, but costly.

• On the 4th-and-1 where we got stuffed, neither Andries nor Olson got any movement up front. They may not have caused the play to break down -- attribute that to either RB Ibrahim blocking the wrong guy, or NW just simply making the exact right call -- but they didn't help.
• On the last possession (after we allowed NW to mount a 66-second TD drive), Olson appeared to lose his footing, and the DT got loose and sacked Morgan, essentially ending any chance we had of scoring.

Faalele continued to display an uncustomary lack of foot speed, allowing a pass rusher to beat him outside, and leading to a few near-problems in the running game. He didn't cost us on those runs, but he didn't do anything to help, either. He also whiffed badly when assigned to pick off a LB at the second level. For the most part, he hasn't looked very comfortable handling that chore this year.

On the plus side, he and Andries did a nice job not looking stupid on a T-DE twist on the last play of the half. They made the switch, although Andries got steamrolled onto his butt by the end looping inside. Kept him away from the QB, though.

Another fun play was on Ibrahim's TD plunge, when Olson locked up with a DT, drove him 2-3 yards down the line, then gave him a final push backward into the pile to send him *** over teakettle. I like a streak of nastiness in my linemen.

We got back to a more balanced approach in the quarter, with 11 runs and 11 passes.

For the half:
• Faalele: 87% run, 82% pass
• Andries: 80% run, 86% pass
• Olson: 73% run, 82% pass

Closer to acceptable, but still the worst half since I started tracking these guys.

JTG
 
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