Rapid reaction: No. 2 TCU escapes pesky Gophers
Final: No. 2 TCU 23, Minnesota 17
Telling stat: TCU wins total yards battle 449-341
TCU’s offense didn’t look as fluid as it has against many of its Big 12 competition, but it was still far more advanced than the Gopher offense. Maybe they got a little conservative after a sack of Mitch Leidner resulted in a fumble and a short field, which TCU turned into seven points. The Gophers did pull off a nifty flea flicker to K.J. Maye that opened things up. But other than that, there wasn’t much fooling that loaded TCU defense.
Key Play: Trevone Boykin’s third-down, third quarter score
The Gophers had a chance to take back control of the game with a third down stop of the Horned Frogs. With a 10-3 lead, the Horned Frogs weren’t a lock to score. They had already missed a 29-yard field goal. Probably because the Gophers had the BEST FIELD GOAL DISTRACTION IN THE HISTORY OF FOOTBALL. A stop of Boykin would’ve potentially given the Gophers a chance to hang within one possession. Instead, the Heisman candidate showed off his mobility on a keeper and found his way to paydirt. That was the highlight of the night for TCU, and unfortunately for Minnesota, it was the turning point.
-Rodney Smith played like feature back
I know, the end zone fumble was costly. Still, take away one fluke play and his night was actually pretty impressive. To run for 5.5 yards per carry against the same defense that bottled up David Cobb last year is impressive. I expected Rodrick Williams to be the new workhorse. He very well could be down the road. But he wasn’t nearly as productive as Smith. At the very least, Jerry Kill should have some depth to work with in the backfield.
-Eric Murray making plays
Just like that, the Gopher safety already matched his 2014 interception total. And he did so against one of the nation’s best passers. That play kept it a two-possession game after he was starting to settle in. Murray also forced a fumble that prevented an early TCU score. Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun wanted to prove that they are two of the best corners in the country. Murray certainly helped that argument.
What it means: Nobody pushes around the Gophers
Minnesota is talented in the areas we thought they had talent. They matched up well with a dominant TCU offense well. Nobody is going to blow out Jerry Kill’s group of they wrap up and cover like that. The Gophers will be able to run the ball on most teams. The question still comes down to whether or not they can establish some passing attack. After Leidner’s fumble in the first quarter, he wasn’t precise, but he took care of the ball. He was far better than last year, when he turned the ball over four times. There’s nobody in the B1G West that can rush the passer like TCU. Nobody in the West has a Heisman candidate like Boykin, either. It’s not a win, but Jerry Kill’s group has to feel confident about its showing against the nation’s No. 2 team.
What’s next: at Colorado State
Minnesota will look to get on the board against a 10-win Colorado State team. No, the Rams don’t have Jim McElwain anymore, but they’ll still be a tough road challenge. Kill’s group will have plenty of positives in the game film to prepare for another talented foe on its brutal schedule.