Burns posts some mind-boggling analysis of the offense and special teams

MplsGopher

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https://247sports.com/college/minne...akers-Preview-Odds-Game-Prediction-154829083/

Keys to the game

1) Fleck/Sanford need to be aggressive on offense
Everyone likely reading this knows that the Gophers are 1-3, but today I leaned that despite that Gophers having a -27 point differential, they are second in the Big Ten in time of possession as only Wisconsin holds the ball for more time in a game. Minnesota's currently second with a bullet over Ohio State as the Gophers on average have held the ball for 35:31 seconds per game.
That's a wild stat considering as previously stated, the Gophers are 1-3 and if you're in a negative game-script (aka losing during the game), you probably shouldn't be trying to establish the run. In theory, you'd just be losing quicker at that pace. But as evident by the Gophers 16-play / 11-minute drive in the third quarter last week, it appears that Gophers are in no rush and will run their offense really regardless of circumstance.
Head coach PJ Fleck has talked about this week and in recent weeks about the "fingerprint" of his 2020 team is different than the 2019 team and will likely be different again in 2021. That's true. But you'd like to think that Fleck and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford know that with current state of the Gophers defense and special teams, the offense is the one that has all of the experienced talent and it needs to be the unit that's aggressive. If Minnesota is going to win another game in 2020, they need to start putting their foot on the gas pedal and keeping it there for all 60 minutes.
---
I examined some of the things that are plaguing the Minnesota passing game here, but the cliff notes would be this.
1) Rashod Bateman has played more snaps in the slot in four 2020 games than he did in 26 career games before this season, and his yards per reception is now the lowest of his three-year career despite commanding a 48% target share.
2) The vertical passing game (20+ yard throws) is down 51.9% compared to last season.
---
So one thing I'd love to see change is Sanford scheme up more play-action deep shots. Autman-Bell and Bateman have been pretty consistent 50/50 ball winners in their career, and the Purdue defense doesn't scare me. Especially without their best pass-rusher in former true freshman All-American George Karlaftis, who missed last week's game against Northwestern with a high-ankle sprain. Even if he's back on Friday, you have to wonder how healthy he'd be. Purdue has struggled to generate a pass-rush this season and if you give Morgan time in a clean pocket, I feel good about his chances of find an open receiver. The Boilermakers rank 121st of 124 FBS teams in sack rate as a defense.
---
In the running game, I do believe you'll see a bounce back performance from the Minnesota Moving Company up front. Purdue's front seven isn't what Iowa's was and against middling Big Ten defenses, this offensive line and tight end unit has shown they can shine.
But the point remains. Fleck and Sanford need to be aggressive with this offense. Take some shots down the field, move your playmakers around and don't call outside zone on 3rd and 6 and then kick a field goal.

...

3) Special teams can't be a dumpster fire

Death. Taxes. And Minnesota's special teams just not helping the rest of their team. If my memory is correct here, I believe that sentence has stayed in every Gopher Football game preview I've wrote for nearly 12 games straight now, if that gives you any indication of where things remain with this unit.

Here's your weekly recap of where things currently stand with Rob Wenger's unit.

- Minnesota ranks dead-last in the Big Ten in net yards on kickoff

- Minnesota ranks dead-last for PAT percentage at 87.5%

- Minnesota ranks dead-last in yards per punt at 34.4 yards and is tied for dead-last in net yards per punt at 34.4 yards

- Minnesota's kick return unit cost their offense 29 yards of field position last week compared to if they just fair-caught the kickoff

- Phillip Howard decided to return a punt inside the 5 yard line instead of letting it bounce into the end zone, costing the Gopher offense 15 yards of field position

- Minnesota had a 39-yard field goal blocked last week

- Mark Crawford averaged 36 yards per punt on six tries, with only two inside the 20

--
So here's where it's at for Gopher special teams this week. I asked them last week to take the next step and help the team, and that proved to be too much. So let's just not hurt the team.

- Fair catch every kickoff so the offense can just start at the 25 and not deep in their own end

- Try not to field punts inside the 5 yard line.

- I'd love to see Mark Crawford get into one and flip the field. Reminder that the Gophers now have TWO 50 yard punts in their last 58 attempts.

- I'd love also to see Minnesota make a field goal of 41 yards or longer. Not sure why walk-on Brock Walker was the one kicking the field goal last week and not scholarship Michael Lantz as the sophomore from Georgia is presumably healthier, but here we are. The stat that makes me cringe a bit is the Gophers have made one field goal of 41 yards or longer in TWO CALENDER YEARS. That was made by Emmit Carpenter in 2018 at Wisconsin.

- Dragan Kesich needs to continue to keep the ball in bounds and kicking it to the goal line to keep Purdue from gaining field position.

---
In what Vegas believe it's going to be a tightly contested game, special teams are going to matter in this one, and it's yet another game for Minnesota where their opponent on paper is going to have an advantage.
 

MplsGopher

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That PJ Fleck has not fired/demoted Wegner from special teams coordinator, should make every fan question his decision making abilities.


I've already posted about Sanford, but here Burns gives us some idea as to what is going wrong.

This is what KC did last year that worked pretty well for Morgan and the offense:
- lot of running the ball, obviously
- a decent amount of long passes on vertical routes to Bateman lined up wide, with a lot of extra pass protectors to give time to Morgan to let Bateman get open.

I feel like a lot sacks on Morgan this year are because he's waiting for a long-developing route to open up, and it either never does or we don't give him the protection that he needs, because we're just doing "regular" protection sets (5 OL + RB sometimes).


Why Sanford decided to mutilate what worked last year, and stick with what isn't working this year, I just have no idea.
 

Spaulding!No!

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I’ll assume fleck is saving plays for later in the season IALTO. Against a meh Purdue squad I expect fleck to call the game similar to what we have seen this year Kill Ball.
 

MNVCGUY

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The lack of vertical shots has been really frustrating. Either something is wrong with Morgan and he can't throw deep (pick he threw against Iowa on a deep ball was a horrible throw) or Sanford is afraid to call those plays. Either way we need to start trying to push the ball downfield and every once in a damn while we need to throw one up to Bateman (tough to do that if he is always in the slot though).

Tough to know exactly what the issue is but the vertical passing game is definitely not what it was in the past and a major part of what is missing on offense this year.
 

Grant

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Need to abandon the kicking game tonight. No punts and no field goal attempts. Only way to win.
 

MplsGopher

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The lack of vertical shots has been really frustrating. Either something is wrong with Morgan and he can't throw deep (pick he threw against Iowa on a deep ball was a horrible throw) or Sanford is afraid to call those plays. Either way we need to start trying to push the ball downfield and every once in a damn while we need to throw one up to Bateman (tough to do that if he is always in the slot though).

Tough to know exactly what the issue is but the vertical passing game is definitely not what it was in the past and a major part of what is missing on offense this year.
Well, one particular poster is claiming that Morgan has a shoulder injury.

If that's true, and it's his throwing shoulder ........ it could explain why the vertical routes are off the table this season and perhaps why Bateman has moved inside so much and thus been so much less effective.


Still then, you have to question why they've stuck with Morgan.


This team won games, with offense, last year because of the vertical routes. That early TD against Wisconsin, for example, was huge.

Just watch the very first highlight of this:


WHERE HAS THAT BEEN THIS YEAR?????
 

Biggsohnasty

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Not super related, but I think Burnsie has a very different view on the idea of a 'negative game script' than I do.

Being down a score or two in the first half, I suppose is technically negative, but not negative enough to abandon the running game. Why does it seem like his analysis illustrates a hate for the running game?
 

HoustonTXGopher

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You have to continue to evolve. There is a ton of film on the Gophers success last year and opponents had a full covid offseason to do nothing but study film. Good defensive coaches have schemed better against us.

Our offensive line has taken a great hit with the losses of DF and CD not playing. They will continue to get better.

We need another receiver or two to emerge as the loss of TJ seems larger than I would have thought.

All this being said, our defense really stinks. LOL
 

MplsGopher

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Not super related, but I think Burnsie has a very different view on the idea of a 'negative game script' than I do.

Being down a score or two in the first half, I suppose is technically negative, but not negative enough to abandon the running game. Why does it seem like his analysis illustrates a hate for the running game?
I think in general you're correct.

Perhaps he's viewing it from the perspective of "we can't count on our defense to stop any one, on any particular drive, therefore down two scores or maybe even one, you need urgency on offense" ?
 

1994Convert

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You don't need urgency on offense to come back from one or two scores down unless it's the 4th quarter. You need urgency on defense to get the ball back.

Our best offensive asset right now is Ibrahim. Unless we are running out of time at the end of the game, this negative script stuff is ridiculous sports-writer babble. Score when you have the ball however you do it best, and get the ball back on defense. Simple in concept, difficult in execution.

On the PJ Fleck show, he addressed the deep passing game and I agree with his assessment. The attempts are there (I haven't seen the stats to confirm) but Morgan isn't connecting with the WRs when the deep ball is thrown. Throwing more deep incompletions isn't going to help the Gophers. I wouldn't mind seeing the time-honored tradition of going to a no-huddle offense to change the tempo and possibly spark the offense.
 

upnorthkid

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I think in general you're correct.

Perhaps he's viewing it from the perspective of "we can't count on our defense to stop any one, on any particular drive, therefore down two scores or maybe even one, you need urgency on offense" ?
This as well as the fact that you then have to be “perfect”. No empty drives (can’t drive it for half a quarter and come up with zero). If you’re anticipating you need to make up ground and your defense stops them every other time, even if you’re only down 2 scores, you need 3 or 4 drives and thus if you’re eating up half a quarter with each drive, you cripple the clock and your comeback chances. You can run the ball, but if you’re going to run the play clock to zero every single play, you’re putting yourself in a tough spot potentially as every 12 play drive is going to run the clock 7-8 minutes (40 seconds at 11 breaks=440 seconds plus play time). That’s all he’s saying. I’d love to see some more tempo in our ground game rather than the peer to the sidelines. A mix in of a tempo run (call plays back to back and actually hike it on your first snap call) I think would catch defenders off guard and get us some gash yards which can allow you to run and avoid some of what he’s saying
 

Spaulding!No!

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The IA flop showed the way —- out muscle mn wrs. Wi did it in such away that you’d have thought a penalty or two was overlooked.
 

manderson1984

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That PJ Fleck has not fired/demoted Wegner from special teams coordinator, should make every fan question his decision making abilities.


I've already posted about Sanford, but here Burns gives us some idea as to what is going wrong.

This is what KC did last year that worked pretty well for Morgan and the offense:
- lot of running the ball, obviously
- a decent amount of long passes on vertical routes to Bateman lined up wide, with a lot of extra pass protectors to give time to Morgan to let Bateman get open.

I feel like a lot sacks on Morgan this year are because he's waiting for a long-developing route to open up, and it either never does or we don't give him the protection that he needs, because we're just doing "regular" protection sets (5 OL + RB sometimes).


Why Sanford decided to mutilate what worked last year, and stick with what isn't working this year, I just have no idea.
The PJ and Wegner thing is mindboggling to me as well and I'm about as much of a pro PJ guy you can be.

I'm not justifying the offensive struggles, but I do have this question. Did PJ always choose to be ultra conservative to start the year on offense not because he is hiding plays from conference teams, but he's set on certain things to be good before he opens the playbook up? I just can't believe that Sanford is that bad/inept as a play caller yet. It's obvious something is off with Morgan and I'm in the camp of letting Annexstad get some run. I do believe a shortened camp and schedule hurt teams/programs like Flecks more than some others because of his belief in process over result.
 

Go Gophs

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You have to continue to evolve. There is a ton of film on the Gophers success last year and opponents had a full covid offseason to do nothing but study film. Good defensive coaches have schemed better against us.

Our offensive line has taken a great hit with the losses of DF and CD not playing. They will continue to get better.

We need another receiver or two to emerge as the loss of TJ seems larger than I would have thought.

All this being said, our defense really stinks. LOL
Autman-Bell is a nice receiver. While not as good as Johnson, he isn't super far off. Are you looking for a 3rd? Cause I agree there isn't much there.
 

MplsGopher

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You don't need urgency on offense to come back from one or two scores down unless it's the 4th quarter. You need urgency on defense to get the ball back.

Our best offensive asset right now is Ibrahim. Unless we are running out of time at the end of the game, this negative script stuff is ridiculous sports-writer babble. Score when you have the ball however you do it best, and get the ball back on defense. Simple in concept, difficult in execution.

On the PJ Fleck show, he addressed the deep passing game and I agree with his assessment. The attempts are there (I haven't seen the stats to confirm) but Morgan isn't connecting with the WRs when the deep ball is thrown. Throwing more deep incompletions isn't going to help the Gophers. I wouldn't mind seeing the time-honored tradition of going to a no-huddle offense to change the tempo and possibly spark the offense.
So he was brilliant and connected with them on deep balls all the time last year, but this year it "just isn't happening for some reason"?

Reeks of protecting his friend Sanford, who is causing it not to happen. It isn't just magically not happening for no good reason this year*.


(* again if Morgan's shoulder is hurt, fine. But we'll never know that, and again, why stick with him then? Why not let him rest and give Clark or ZA a shot? That decision belongs to Fleck & Sanford)
 

OddStack

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you probably shouldn't be trying to establish the run. In theory, you'd just be losing quicker at that pace. But as evident by the Gophers 16-play / 11-minute drive in the third quarter last week, it appears that Gophers are in no rush and will run their offense really regardless of circumstance.

This point tells me, PJ knows how bad the defense is and is doing damage control in games like MI and IA.
 

1994Convert

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So he was brilliant and connected with them on deep balls all the time last year, but this year it "just isn't happening for some reason"?
Obviously you're not a golfer.

...actually, neither am I. However, golfers lose their swing and it happens in football too. I didn't specifically blame Morgan, that was brought out in your response. All that I'm saying is that the deep ball isn't working. It could be Morgan, the WRs, the scheme, the timing, etc. There is a lot that goes into making a deep ball work, and unless you have Megatron, you can't just air it out and hope your WR goes up and gets it.

You may be right that it is Sanford. Somehow the offense did phenomenally with Sanford against Auburn, but this year it is not clicking. Somewhere the deep ball isn't working and I'm not sure that going to it more is going to produce better results. It's like losing your 3pt shot and thinking that the solution is just to shoot more 3's.
 

MplsGopher

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Obviously you're not a golfer.

...actually, neither am I. However, golfers lose their swing and it happens in football too. I didn't specifically blame Morgan, that was brought out in your response. All that I'm saying is that the deep ball isn't working. It could be Morgan, the WRs, the scheme, the timing, etc. There is a lot that goes into making a deep ball work, and unless you have Megatron, you can't just air it out and hope your WR goes up and gets it.

You may be right that it is Sanford. Somehow the offense did phenomenally with Sanford against Auburn, but this year it is not clicking. Somewhere the deep ball isn't working and I'm not sure that going to it more is going to produce better results. It's like losing your 3pt shot and thinking that the solution is just to shoot more 3's.
Sanford was not here for Auburn! That game was called by Simon, who is currently our WR coach and "co-OC". And who many people called to be hired as the OC after that game. Fleck obviously wanted to give the job to his buddy, and it made it harder. But he pulled it off.

We do have Megatron, though ... his name is Bateman.

I don't think Morgan had a cannon arm that was lighting the world on fire, last year either. Look at the pass that is the first highlight of the video above. It was a beautifully timed and positioned throw, but was not a frozen rope by any means.
 

forever a gopher

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I am in the camp that believes something is wrong with Morgan. His throws have been off and the deep ball, which he was great at last year is being consistently under thrown this year. If his arm is healthy, Bateman should be lined up wide. He is not the same threat in the slot.

IF (big IF) Morgan’s arm is hurt or something else is up, they need to get Zach in some. He should be getting in these blowouts regardless, but if Morgan is injured, Zach should have been playing for a fair amount of the 4th quarter in these blowouts.
 

Spaulding!No!

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So, the most logical reason for many of you is that Morgan is not able to be healthy and play qb at the Leidner level. Ok.
 

Spaulding!No!

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Well, I guess he simply had some poor performances. Mystery solved fish bulb
 

NotAFanOfBecky

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Well this was very interesting after watching the game, man the defense is just struggling so so bad. I was happy to see a few of the young guys out there on the line. Hope to see some of them at linebacker too!

Regarding Bateman, I love him but he just doesn't seem very sudden. He has that long speed but he is not real quick. Now, Rondale Moore, that dude is quick as a cat! I think you need to pull Bateman from the slot and put him outside, he thrives there, he's just not quick enough to be in the slot (slot guys are usually pretty shifty or just really powerful). Jackson seems quick enough to stay in the slot? Hopefully they use these guys where they shine.
 

MplsGopher

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well seems like the Burns analysis was spot on. Downfield shots opened things up for us. being aggressive was key. going into the shell almost fucked us over. keep getting better. just win baby
And special teams was mostly better!

No idea why walk-on Brock Walker is still doing the FG/PAT. Wild guess: this is Fleck's way of showing players he'll stick by people who step-up and help out when they're called upon. Obviously Brock was the guy when no one else could go, and for whatever reason I guess Fleck doesn't want to make it look like he yanked the rug out from under his feet as soon as Ryerse was ready.
 

RolGnav

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Again, we know why we barely won... 5 red zone appearances, 5 scores... then Fleck gets scared and goes into conservative mode and when we can't out muscle the other defense with our predictable play calling... he puts it all on the defense to stop the other team. And geeze, that didn't work out so well. A win is a win right? I'd prefer we lost so Fleck could actually figure out what's actually wrong with his coaching this year. Burns, and some of us GH'ers know what it is. It's as simple as... dude our Defense sucks, and our Offense is the best thing we have as long as we're not being predictable... So to win games, we have to score more than the other team for all 4 quarters and not rely on our defense. Pretty simple really.
 

upnorthkid

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Again, we know why we barely won... 5 red zone appearances, 5 scores... then Fleck gets scared and goes into conservative mode and when we can't out muscle the other defense with our predictable play calling... he puts it all on the defense to stop the other team. And geeze, that didn't work out so well. A win is a win right? I'd prefer we lost so Fleck could actually figure out what's actually wrong with his coaching this year. Burns, and some of us GH'ers know what it is. It's as simple as... dude our Defense sucks, and our Offense is the best thing we have as long as we're not being predictable... So to win games, we have to score more than the other team for all 4 quarters and not rely on our defense. Pretty simple really.
no
 
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