Once again, Gophers defense outmatched

Minnesota’s secondary was no match for Indiana’s receiving core.

Brian Deutsch

;BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Minnesota football coach Tim Brewster repeated a regular saying after Minnesota’s 40-20 loss to Indiana on Saturday.

“We need guys to make plays,” he said.

In a game where the defense could have made a statement by shutting down one of the conference’s most dangerous quarterbacks, sophomore Kellen Lewis, the only guys making plays were Lewis and the Hoosiers.

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Northwestern
what: Football
when: 11 a.m., Saturday
where: Evanston, Ill.

Minnesota held the Indiana quarterback to only 26 yards in the first half, but the sophomore chalked up 62 additional rushing yards in the second half. Lewis also went 24 of 36 through the air for 235 yards and one touchdown.

“He’s a playmaker,” junior defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg said. “He likes to make plays on his feet, and he can throw it in the air. He’s just a good player.”

On his second pass of the day, Lewis set the tempo when he hit wide out James Hardy with a 51-yard completion over the head of freshman cornerback Ryan Callado. Hardy, who stands 6-feet-7-inches, was simply too tall for the Gophers’ secondary, where the average height is under 6 feet.

His next reception was Indiana’s first touchdown of the game, when Lewis lofted a pass into the corner of the end zone. Senior defensive back Jamal Harris, who spotted Hardy 7 inches, tried to defend the play, but the height advantage was too much, as Hardy easily pulled down the ball.

“(Lewis) has some great guys to throw it to,” Brewster said. “Hardy was a chore out there.”

With such an advantage over the secondary, it’s not hard to see why the Minnesota defense was unable to stop Indiana’s high-powered offense.

The Gophers defense failed to shutout a Hoosiers drive in the first half as Indiana managed to put points on the scoreboard in basically every realistic possession.

The Hoosiers scored a field goal or better on their first five drives of the game – they only had six drives in the entire first half.

The lone drive the Hoosiers failed to score on was the last one of the half, as Lewis kneeled the ball twice to use up the last minute of clock.

“We’ve got to start getting stops where they have to punt the ball and not get field goals,” VanDeSteeg said. “In the first half we couldn’t stop them.”

The second half wasn’t any better for Minnesota as the struggles persisted, but there was a high point when freshman free safety Kyle Theret intercepted a pass on Minnesota’s 25-yard line and returned it down to the Indiana 41.

However, the Gophers couldn’t take advantage of the turnover and gave the ball back to the Hoosiers four plays later.

Theret’s interception was Minnesota’s only takeaway of the game, one of two defensive problems, along with tackling, that have plagued the team all year.

“We have to turn the ball over, we only got one today and had a chance for a couple more,” Theret said. “We’ve got to create more turnovers.”

The defense did see an improvement when it came to pressuring the quarterback, as the team combined for two sacks in the game, one from VanDeSteeg and the other from senior strong safety Dominique Barber – it had just three on the season coming into the contest.

Brewster didn’t make any excuses in defeat, but said he would find the positives in the game as he always does.

“We all understand it’s about winning. We’re not looking for moral victories, we’re not looking for anything but W’s,” he said. “We came in here expecting the win, and we didn’t win.”