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Midseason report: Minnesota

10/10/2011

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Record: 1-5 (0-2 Big Ten)

About the best thing Minnesota can say for the 2011 season right now is that at least it's halfway over. Not much was expected out of the Gophers this year, but hardly anybody thought they would be quite this bad. After playing USC tough on the road to open the year, just about everything went wrong. First-year head coach Jerry Kill suffered a seizure on the sidelines near the end of a loss to New Mexico State in the home opener, and Kill has had to be hospitalized twice to deal with the issue. Marqueis Gray has experienced some rocky moments while making the transition from wide receiver to quarterback, and the team has needed true freshman Max Shortell to take over under center during key stretches. The defense still lacks a legitimate pass rush and is one of the worst in the country against the pass. Minnesota's only victory came against Miami of Ohio, which was quickly erased a week later by a loss to FCS opponent North Dakota State. The Gophers were outscored 103-17 in their first six quarters of Big Ten play and look a long way from competing in the league. Kill will need to use the second half of the season to coach up his young players and identify leaders for next year. The 2011 season is already mostly lost.

Offensive MVP: Wide receiver Da'Jon McKnight. There's not much to highlight from the Big Ten's lowest scoring offense. Gray is a special athlete but has suffered his share of growing pains at quarterback. The running game has been below average. McKnight (25 catches, 316 yards, one touchdown) remains one of the better receivers in the league. Minnesota just needs to find more ways to get him the ball.

Defensive MVP: Safety Kim Royston. Much like on the offensive side, the Gophers don't have many all-star candidates on defense. Royston, who was granted an unexpected sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, leads the team in tackles with 51 and is among the tops in stops in the Big Ten. Of course, it's often a bad sign for your defense when the safety leads the team in tackles.