Gophers-Indiana

Coming off back-to-back losses to Illinois and Iowa, Minnesota badly needed a “get right” game.

On paper, Indiana appeared to offer the Gophers just what they were looking for, even with head coach P.J. Fleck’s insistence he was treating the Hoosiers like an 8-2 team not one which entered Saturday with a 2-8 record.

But the game wasn’t about (a third) “I,” it was about team. A Minnesota team effort, that is.

The Gophers got big games from their running backs. Quarterback Tanner Morgan had his best game in a month. The defense, after allowing a 92-yard touchdown drive on Indiana’s opening possession, simply shut down the Hoosiers until it didn’t matter anymore and picked off two passes.

In between Indiana scores on its first and last possessions, Minnesota not only kept the Hoosiers off the scoreboard but held them to only one drive which netted more than eight yards – and that was a nine-play, 29-yard drive on Indiana’s second-to-last possession which ended with the Hoosiers turning it over on downs.

By that point, the Gophers led 28-7.

Morgan was efficient – completing 14 of 20 passes for 196 yards with two touchdowns. The latter two numbers were his highest in five games. Morgan’s passer rating of 185.3 was his highest in over a year (194.51 against Maryland in the second game of 2020).

Combined with a rushing attack which gained 195 yards and found the end zone three times along with that defense which gave up just 218 yards, and this one turned into just what was thought when you looked at it on paper:

A 7-3 team putting a beating on a 2-8 one.

Here's a recap of Saturday’s game:

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Speaking of efficient, running back Ky Thomas just wore down the Indiana defense. He got 26 carries and rushed for 105 yards with two touchdowns. Down by the goal line, it was Thomas who got the ball. His first score came on a direct snap from the 2-yard line. His second, was a one-yard run in which he waltzed into the end zone untouched from the left side. It was Thomas’ fourth time eclipsing 100 yards over the last five games – but he had just one touchdown over that span until Saturday.

DON'T FORGET ABOUT ME

Wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell only had two touches – but what a two they were. The first came with nine seconds remaining in the first half, making an incredible catch in the end zone and staying inbounds in the process. The second was another beautiful grab. Late in the third quarter, Morgan was hit while he threw, but his pass still was on target for a covered Autman-Bell. But the pass was a little high and Autman-Bell climbed the ladder for his second touchdown, the first multi-score game of his career. Two catches, two touchdowns? Autman-Bell is the efficient winner of the day.

THAT MOMENT

Last week, P.J. Fleck was conservative in his play calling in the loss to Iowa (which we called out in our Upon Further Review). This week, down 7-0, the Gophers got to the Indiana 35, only to be faced with a fourth-and-1. Perhaps Fleck remembered the previous week’s block on a long field-goal attempt or maybe he thought it was too close to punt. Whatever the reason, Minnesota went for it and Thomas gained five yards to keep the drive alive. No momentum swing here for Indiana; just the opposite as the Gophers capped it off with Thomas’ two-yard direct snap TD run.

THIS NUMBER

Minnesota held Indiana to 218 yards of total offense. That’s the fewest allowed by the Gophers in a Big Ten game since Maryland had 210 on Oct. 26, 2019 and the least in a road conference tilt since one week earlier, Oct. 19, 2019, against Rutgers.

THEY SAID IT

"Last week was a really emotional game. Sometimes you don’t know what you are going to get after that." -- head coach P.J. Fleck 

"I don't think he's a surprise. I think it's a surprise he's playing as much as he is because he has to. But he's a really good football player, he has incredible football IQ. Running back is harder than it looks. It's not Tecmo Bowl." -- Fleck on running back Ky Thomas

"I was like, 'Yeah, OK. We've got to review that.' Coach was literally running over to me, 'Were you in?' I said, 'For sure I was in.'" -- wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell on his first score, which was rule incomplete and changed to a touchdown after review

"They have got about seven guys over there that seems like they are about 6-foot-7 and 380 pounds. They just get to leaning on you and it creates holes that just wear over the course of a game. Fatigues the D-Line, fatigues the linebackers, those big bodies out there. They just do a really good job in the run schemes and figuring stuff out." -- Indiana DB Bryant Fitzgerald on Minnesota's run game

WHAT'S NEXT

The final game of the regular season is always the one circled on the calendar: A matchup with rival Wisconsin with the winner claiming Paul Bunyan’s Axe. After a 1-3 start, the Badgers have reeled off seven consecutive victories, including a 35-28 squeaker over Nebraska on Saturday. Freshman running back Braelon Allen has rushed for over 100 yards in each of those seven wins. The Gophers haven’t won a home game in this storied series since 2003, losing by at least 10 points in the last five matchups in Minneapolis.

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