Friday, September 3, 2010
Thoughts on Minnesota, Indiana victories
By Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten is still perfect in 2010. All three teams in action Thursday night came out victorious. You've already seen my thoughts on Ohio State-Marshall.
Let's take a look at the other two games:
Minnesota 24, Middle Tennessee 17: It wasn't a masterpiece, but Minnesota took a big step toward establishing its offensive identity. Coach Tim Brewster has talked about "pound the rock" for a while, but until Thursday night, the Gophers hadn't been that power-run, clock-killing offense. They achieved both of those goals in a big way at Middle Tennessee, rushing for 281 yards and holding the ball for 45:34. That's exactly what new offensive coordinator Jeff Horton wants to do with this unit. Running back Duane Bennett had a huge night (30 carries, 187 yards), and I couldn't be happier for fullback Jon Hoese, who scored all three Minnesota touchdowns, including the game-winner in the fourth quarter. Hoese nearly didn't make the trip after his father suffered a severe stroke this week. He ends up playing, scoring three touchdowns and recovering a fumble on a kickoff return. He'll be getting a helmet sticker Saturday night. Minnesota's defense looked shaky at times in the middle quarters but did enough to win, and senior quarterback Adam Weber completed 10 of 17 passes. Most important, Minnesota played a more disciplined game, committing no turnovers and had just four penalties. The Gophers had to take advantage of Middle Tennessee without Dwight Dasher, and they did with a second-half rally.
Indiana 51, Towson 17: Tandon Doss' absence clearly didn't slow down the Indiana offense, which surged both through the air and, more importantly, on the ground. As I expected, Damarlo Belcher picked up the slack for the injured Doss and came up big with eight receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown. Ben Chappell did what senior quarterbacks are supposed to do against poor FCS teams and delivered an efficient performance (17-for-24 passing, 186 yards, 2 touchdowns). But the big story was Willis and the run game. Coach Bill Lynch introduced the pistol formation to spark the rushing attack, but Indiana has been inconsistent and Willis has struggled to stay healthy. The junior back looked great Thursday with 102 rush yards and two touchdowns on only 13 carries. Linebacker Tyler Replogle led the defense, and two defensive backs who used to play receiver, Mitchell Evans and Matt Ernest, both recorded interceptions. Indiana has to capitalize on a very soft nonconference slate, and Thursday night was the first step.