Squandered red zone chances made difference

The Gophers had a fumble and a four-and-out in their two best chances.

Squandered red zone chances made difference

Marco LaNave

IOWA CITY, Iowa âÄî The Gophers couldnâÄôt find the end zone on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium, and a recurring deficiency stained yet another defeat. After a 12-0 loss to No. 13 Iowa, Minnesota could only bemoan its two squandered red-zone chances, including four fruitless plays from the HawkeyesâÄô 2-yard line, and wonder âÄî not for the first time âÄî how the result might have been different. âÄúThe opportunities were there,âÄù head coach Tim Brewster said. âÄúThe execution with those opportunities was not.âÄù The Gophers were behind 3-0 when they drove to the Iowa 12-yard line in the second quarter. After losing a yard on a first-down run, the Gophers fumbled the ball on an exchange between junior center D.J. Burris and junior quarterback Adam Weber. Hawkeyes linebacker Bruce Davis recovered the ball at the Iowa 17, spoiling the GophersâÄô best threat up to that point in the game. âÄúYouâÄôve got to take advantage of the snaps you get, particularly in a short-yardage situation,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúYou canâÄôt mishandle a quarterback-center exchange on the [13-yard line]. That canâÄôt happen.âÄù Minnesota had its best chance to get back in the game early in the fourth quarter. Down 12-0, the Gophers recovered a fumble at the Iowa 29-yard line and drove to the 2. On first and goal, the Hawkeyes stopped freshman quarterback MarQueis Gray at the line of scrimmage. They did the same to sophomore running back Duane Bennett on second and goal. On the next play, WeberâÄôs pass to sophomore wide receiver Troy Stoudermire was broken up by Hawkeyes cornerback Shaun Prater. On fourth and goal, Weber dropped back to pass and tried to scramble but was tackled for a loss. âÄúTheyâÄôre a very stout defense, and they were just better than us,âÄù Weber said. âÄúThatâÄôs what it comes down to on the goal line: ItâÄôs all about heart; itâÄôs all about skill and desire, and they outplayed us.âÄù The Gophers were also stopped after they had second and 2 at the Iowa 35-yard line late in the third quarter. They ran three times without getting a first down. âÄúYou work on it so much as an offense [that] you believe that when itâÄôs fourth and 1 or when thereâÄôs âĦ a couple yards to go, that you should be able to pound it in,âÄù Weber said. The GophersâÄô inability to finish drives with touchdowns was critical in several games this season, beginning with the battle for Paul BunyanâÄôs Axe against Wisconsin on Oct. 3. In that game, Minnesota kicked two first-half field goals after trips inside the BadgersâÄô 10-yard line, including a first-and-goal chance from the Wisconsin 1. Those missed opportunities haunted the Gophers in a 31-28 loss at TCF Bank Stadium. At Penn State on Oct. 17, the Gophers defense gave them a slim chance for a comeback early in the fourth quarter. Trailing 20-0, Minnesota had first and goal at the Penn State 8-yard line. On fourth and goal from the 1, redshirt freshman running back Kevin Whaley couldnâÄôt out-run the Nittany Lions defense on a stretch play and was stopped for no gain and no touchdown. The shutout loss in State College, Pa., was the first of three road losses to the Big TenâÄôs top-three teams. Outside of a late touchdown with the game already decided at Ohio State on Oct. 24, the Gophers were kept off the scoreboard by the Nittany Lions, Buckeyes and Hawkeyes. But it wasnâÄôt just against the Big TenâÄôs elite that the Gophers fell short in red-zone drives. At home against Illinois on Nov. 7, the Gophers fell behind 28-7 at halftime but started the second half with a drive to the IlliniâÄôs 1-yard line, where they had first and goal. They kicked a field goal, and their rally fell short in a 35-32 loss. The following week against South Dakota State, the Gophers twice had first-and-goal plays from the JackrabbitsâÄô 8-yard line in the first quarter. Once they tried three runs, once they tried three passes, but each drive ended with just three points. Thanks to a defensive touchdown and a short field-goal miss by SDSU, though, the Gophers escaped, 16-13. On Saturday, the GophersâÄô defense had its best performance of the season but couldnâÄôt celebrate because of another weak offensive output. The Gophers will have a few weeks before the bowl game to correct that. âÄúThe defense did an outstanding job,âÄù Weber said. âÄúIf we want to be a great team, if we want to win games, we [the offense] have to do our part.âÄù