Spread coast offense still relying on run

Minnesota continues to lean on its ground game despite Brewster’s efforts to put the ball in the air more than they had been.

Brian Deutsch

While the spread coast offense is designed to distribute the ball evenly between passing the ball and running, it is quickly becoming apparent that the ground game is still Minnesota’s bread and butter.

While the passing game might develop after years of recruiting by coach Tim Brewster, rushing personnel left over from the Glen Mason era might prove to be the Gophers’ best bet this season.

And in Saturday night’s loss to Purdue, a strong running effort by several players allowed Minnesota to hang with the Boilermakers although the receiving corps made several big contributions as well in the losing effort.

However, the Gophers’ running game didn’t look like the team’s best attribute in the opening half.

After rushing for 53 yards on five carries, senior running back Amir Pinnix fumbled the ball on the Purdue 14-yard line leading Brewster to put the ball into the hands of true freshman Duane Bennett and benching Pinnix for the rest of the game.

Bennett then proceeded to out-produce Pinnix in the third quarter alone – rambling off five carries for 70 yards in the stanza.

The back made an immediate impact on Minnesota’s first drive of the half when he ran 44 yards to Purdue’s 4-yard line on his first carry of the night.

On the next play, Bennett completed the drive for the Gophers – recording his first career touchdown in the process.

It took four games for him to emerge as a feature back, but according to Bennett, the time on the sideline only improved his game.

“I was ready when the coaches called,” he said. “But as far as waiting, my thing is that you can always learn by watching.”

The 5-foot-9-inch, 195-pounder, rounded out the evening with seven carries for 81 yards, but Bennett wasn’t alone in the second-half productions.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Adam Weber carried the ball a team-high 20 times in the contest, gaining 76 yards in the effort.

Weber added a touchdown run of his own when the quarterback muscled his way into the end zone from two yards out to lessen the gap to 14 points.

The scoring run was Minnesota’s fourth-consecutive scoring drive of the half – which was started by Bennett’s opening drive.

Sophomore running back Jay Thomas, who gained 24 yards on four carries, added a one-yard touchdown run, and Weber hit sophomore wide out Eric Decker with a 15-yard pass in the end zone before Weber’s scramble ended the night’s scoring.

Weber credited the teams’ preparation as the reason why the Gophers have had continued success in the second half – they’ve outscored opponents 95-45 in the final two quarters of play this season.

“Our conditioning is going to help us out, and our offense will be able to keep coming up with drives in the third quarter,” Weber said. “But if we kill ourselves in the first quarter all that conditioning doesn’t help you out too much.”

The growing number of threats on the ground, specifically Bennett, gives Minnesota more options according to Brewster.

“Bennett is a good football player and I am very excited about the progress he has made and what he brings to the table,” Brewster said. “He gave us a lift in the second half and he is only going to continue to get better as the season goes on.”