Minnesota offense in search of an identity

The Gophers were booed on offense at home several times in Saturday’s game.

Wide receiver KJ Maye enters the end zone, scoring a touchdown in the second quarter at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday where the Gophers defeated Kent State 10-7.

Image by Melissa Scharf

Wide receiver KJ Maye enters the end zone, scoring a touchdown in the second quarter at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday where the Gophers defeated Kent State 10-7.

by Ben Gotz

Despite picking up their second win on Saturday against Kent State University, the Gophers offense appeared lost at sea.
The team turned the ball over three times and only scored 10 points at home, leading to boos at multiple points from the crowd in TCF Bank Stadium.
“They were probably booing at me,” head coach Jerry Kill said in an agitated end to his postgame presser. “Last time they booed at somebody, they fired him. Maybe I need to get fired. I don’t know. I guess we don’t have an [athletics director], so I can’t get fired tomorrow.”
Kill, who fielded multiple questions about his team’s offensive performance, ended his postgame comments by pointedly stating the Gophers won against Kent State.
Still, at times, the team appeared lost on offense.
Minnesota has been known for its commitment to running the ball under Kill, but against Kent State the Gophers only mustered 2.4 yards per carry.
Stripped of their normal identity on the ground, the team’s offense could never settle into a rhythm.
“We’ve been doing fine on offense; we just have to make some adjustments,” senior wide receiver KJ Maye said. “We have to just get back to what we’ve been doing, get in a rhythm. Once we get taken out of a rhythm, it’s harder to come back a little bit.”
Injuries on the offensive line also played a factor. Redshirt senior guard Jon Christenson was out due to knee surgery, and the Gophers started their third group of lineman in three games.
The offensive line struggled to get push up front in the running game, and quarterback Mitch Leidner faced plenty of pressure and was sacked twice.
“Physically, I thought we got it handed to us — the way I look at it — and that hasn’t been our nature,” Kill said.
Minnesota’s passing game remained erratic Saturday, with Leidner completing some impressive throws down the field but missing others.
The redshirt junior also threw two interceptions during the game on passes deep down the field.
Freshman quarterback Demry Croft was seen throwing passes on the sideline at multiple points during the game but never entered.
Kill declined three times in his postgame presser to comment on the team’s quarterbacks.
Despite the team’s struggles in the passing game, Maye said Leidner has remained positive.
“He knows if he gets down, gets mad — stuff like that — everyone feeds off of him, so he’s been staying positive and been trying to keep everybody up,” Maye said.
The Gophers defense pitched a shutout on the field Saturday, with Kent State’s only points coming off of a fumble return for a touchdown.
But if the Gophers want to contend in the Big Ten West division, they need the other side of the ball to do its share.
“We’re not executing, so we got to find a way to do that better,” Kill said. “That’s something I’m not doing a very good job of coaching. I’m the head coach. Got to find a way to do it; that’s my job.”