The Gophers came into Saturday’s loss to Iowa with a three-pronged attack in the backfield, with redshirt sophomore Rodney Smith, junior Kobe McCrary and sophomore Shannon Brooks each having games of over 100 yards rushing.
Iowa stopped that attack in Saturday’s game.
Minnesota had 102 rushing yards in a 14-7 loss to the Hawkeyes.
“I think the holes were there,” Brooks said. “We maybe missed a few holes on certain plays, things like that, and then the ball security thing. We’ve got to do a good job of that, keep the ball.”
Iowa came in with a lot to prove when it came to its rush defense. The Hawkeyes had given up an average of 182.5 yards per game on the ground before their matchup against the Gophers.
Iowa’s weak rush defense held Minnesota to its lowest rushing total in a game since the Minnesota-Wisconsin game on Nov. 28, 2015.
Minnesota was averaging 228 yards on the ground before its game against Iowa.
Head coach Tracy Claeys said he blamed the struggle in the ground game on the offensive line.
“It’s pretty obvious, we got whipped up front,” Claeys said. “The offensive line, we couldn’t create some space … On those days you get whipped up front, you don’t have a very good chance.”
Brooks was Minnesota’s leading rusher. He had 10 attempts for 55 yards and a touchdown. He only had two touches in the fourth quarter.
Smith struggled to break through in the game. The redshirt sophomore’s longest run came on a 9-yard gain. He only amassed 44 yards with zero touchdowns and a fumble.
McCrary was the starter in the backfield for the Gophers in the game, but his only rush attempt of the game came on the first drive.
The lack of rushing offense made the Gophers one-dimensional in the second half.
Minnesota ran the ball just four times in the fourth quarter. The Gophers punted five times and turned the ball over twice during that same period.
“You’ve just got to trust what the coaches call and do your job every play and just trust what the coaches want to do,” Brooks said. “I believe in the staff. We’ve got a great, great staff here, and I believe in our offense. I feel like, they make correct calls, so whatever they call we’ve just got to go with it.”
Redshirt senior quarterback Mitch Leidner has also helped the Minnesota rushing attack during the season. Leidner rushed for 141 yards with three touchdowns on the ground before this game.
But today, he was held to one yard on seven attempts.
The offensive line struggled throughout the game, partly due to some injuries.
Redshirt senior right tackle Jonah Pirsig left the game with an ankle injury. Sophomore center Tyler Moore was playing through a left arm injury. The Gophers also rotated the guard positions between four different players.
“You can always go and pick excuses, [but] the bottom line is you’ve got to do it,” Claeys said. “We’ve got injuries up there, a little bit, but got to find a way to get it done — that’s their job description.”