We all have bad days.
Iowa and Minnesota had a bad day. The fans who watched the game had a bad day. I’m not so sure Floyd of Rosedale, the 98-pound, bronze pig statue, didn’t have a bad day.
But Mitch Leidner? Yeah, he had an awful day.
The Gopher quarterback had the type of performance we haven’t seen in two years. 13-of-33 for 166 yards and two interceptions. In the biggest game of Minnesota’s season – a contest that would either keep them in the B1G West race or eliminate them just two games into the conference schedule – Leidner had one of the worst performances in his entire collegiate career.
It was the type of outing we weren’t supposed to see anymore. Offensive coordinator Jay Johnson’s slimmed playbook was going to play to the strengths of Leidner and allow him to excel with things he does best.
The playbook didn’t matter on Saturday, though. It could’ve been a 350-page novel or a six plays on a single sheet of paper. Leidner was off his game against Iowa, and it cost Minnesota heavily.
His passes were off target most of the afternoon and he tucked the ball in questionable situations. Some of his decision-making was puzzling, too. If it weren’t for some impressive catches from receivers Rashad Still and Brian Smith, the numbers would have been even worse.
Despite a dreadful day, Minnesota had a chance to tie the game with one final possession. Thanks to a few great catches, the Gophers had a chance. But when the ball reached the Iowa 13-yard-line, Leidner’s inconsistency set in again. He overthrew receivers, not giving them a chance to make plays. He was making freshman-type mistakes that should’ve been corrected by now.
Instead, the offensive struggles led to a 14-7 loss to Iowa.
For the year, Leidner had come in completing 63 percent of his passes and had thrown five TD passes with just two interceptions after four games. Those aren’t earth-shattering numbers, but it was the type of season the Gophers needed from their senior leader. Against an Iowa defense that had been gashed by a putrid Northwestern offense a week ago, Minnesota had a real opportunity to get a statement win at home and kick-start its push for a West title.
Instead, we saw from Leidner what we’ve seen far too often from him; inconsistent play that was detrimental to his team’s success.
He shouldn’t be credited with all the blame. Minnesota couldn’t get things going on the ground, earning just 102 rushing yards for the afternoon. The offensive line was pushed around by Iowa’s defensive front for a good portion of the afternoon. The quarterback found himself in bad situations frequently.
Still, it’s hard to explain a 39 percent completion rate and a pair of costly turnovers. He didn’t complete a pass until the second quarter and started the day with five incompletions. A senior quarterback with receiving high praise from NFL scout shouldn’t have those type of games. Not in games with these type of implications.
Leidner had the third-worst outing of his career, numbers-wise. He picked a bad time to revert to his old ways and it cost the Gophers a chance at competing for a division crown.
Before the season started, Tracy Claeys said that this was a team that could win eight-to-10 games this season. In the half-decade he’s been at Minnesota, this was the most talented roster that he’s coached.
Minnesota’s not going to come close to that mark if Leidner has more performances like he had against Iowa.
Hopefully it was just a bad day for the senior. Otherwise the Gophers are in big trouble this season.