Rapid reaction: Minnesota shows weakness in Kent State nail-biter
Final: Minnesota 10, Kent State 7
Telling stat: Gophers lose turnover battle 3-0
This was why this game was WAY closer than it ever should’ve been. Jerry Kill’s teams have historically made a living on winning the turnover battle and playing ball control football. That did not happen at all on Saturday. Mitch Leidner had his third game of his career with multiple interceptions and made a weak Kent State defense look a lot better than it was. His first pick of the day ended his streak of 157 passes without an interception, which was the third longest active streak in the country.
Key play: Simple swing throw to KJ Maye for first touchdown
The first and only Minnesota touchdown came on a simple swing pass to K.J. Maye at the end of the first half. Mitch Leidner’s only true highlight was on arguably his easiest throw of the day. Maye made a nice move on the left side and flashed his speed in the open field. Without that, the Gophers first half would’ve looked even worse. It was Maye’s third receiving touchdown of the year, which was more than any Gopher wideout had in all of 2014.
-Hold up on Rodney Smith hype
I was all-in on the freshman back, but perhaps I got a little ahead of myself. He looked awfully human on a day where he had 30 carries. Just 73 yards won’t cut it come Big Ten time. Jerry Kill made the bold move to make Smith the feature back and to give the more experienced Rodrick Williams less work. Kill might have to go back to a two-running back system because the Gophers were in desperate need of a true change of pace.
-Minnesota defense solid
Kent State’s only touchdown of the day came on a scoop and score by Demetrius Monday. He also picked off Leidner twice, for what it’s worth. But other than that, Minnesota’s defense held true on a day when the Gopher offense was brutal. Kent State was held to 2.6 yards per pass attempt and 2.5 per rushing attempt. I don’t care who you’re playing against, that’s not too shabby. If there’s one positive takeaway for the Gophers, that’s it.
What it means: What strength?
Minnesota could claim that it had the toughest strength of schedule through two games. Saturday was supposed to be different. This was a Kent State team that Illinois rolled 52-3 in the opener. The Gophers won but had a major letdown for a game they were supposed to win by four scores. Will Kill make any personnel changes on offense? Who knows, but clearly, the Gophers have work to do.