Jekyll and Hyde like offense plagues Gophers

Call it the tale of two offenses; call it the tale of two halves; call it the tale of two somethings, because Saturday, MinnesotaâÄôs offense had two entirely different personalities. One could move the ball down the field and score, seemingly at will; the other could hardly gain a yard and looked eager to give the ball back to Wisconsin. It was almost like the GophersâÄô offense was fighting itself. The two offensive personalities couldnâÄôt co-exist, so the question on every possession became: Which one will take the field this drive? The answer always came quickly; Minnesota never held the ball for more than three minutes . Unfortunately for the Gophers, the stymied offense showed up a few too many times âÄî especially in the second half âÄî against a Badgers team determined to claw its way back from a 21-7 halftime deficit. Of course, the fact that Minnesota was sitting on 21 points at the break is a testament to the fact that the offense played its best game in weeks. Thanks to a fumble recovery by junior defensive tackle Garrett Brown deep in Wisconsin territory, the Gophers scored their first touchdown since the second quarter against Northwestern on Nov. 1, just a minute and a half into the second quarter Saturday. Along with the three-play, 11-yard drive returned the offenseâÄôs confidence âÄî for awhile at least. Its next two drives resulted in quick scores, the run game was respectable and at halftime, sophomore quarterback Adam Weber was an ultra-efficient 7-of-9 for 116 yards and a pair of touchdown strikes. He found the end zone with a 6-yard quarterback draw as well. But such consistent production wasnâÄôt there the whole day, and ultimately, it was the offenseâÄôs inconsistent moments that decided the game. Head coach Tim Brewster certainly realizes it. âÄúThatâÄôs been kind of our deal the last couple of weeks offensively,âÄù he said after the game. âÄúWe really havenâÄôt been a consistent football team.âÄù Or at least not consistent enough. The notion that itâÄôs better to be inconsistent than consistently bad may be generally accurate, but as was the case Saturday with MinnesotaâÄôs offense, too much inconsistency can be disastrous. Consider the fourth quarter. The Gophers took over on their own 7-yard line, minutes after freshman Troy Stoudermire fumbled a kickoff out the back of the end zone for a safety. Three plays and two sacks later, the Badgers had another safety and a four-point lead. On the very next possession, freshman running back Shady Salamon fumbled the toss from Weber on an option and WisconsinâÄôs Jonathan Casillas jumped on the ball at MinnesotaâÄôs 11-yard line âÄî what happened to the offense that scored three straight touchdowns in the second quarter? Backed up to their own 11, the Gophers couldnâÄôt do much to keep the Badgers from scoring. That doesnâÄôt mean the defense wasnâÄôt expecting to make a stand. MinnesotaâÄôs defenders could have, and probably should have, blamed the offense for coughing up the ball twice inside the 15 âÄî Weber and freshman running back DeLeon Eskridge botched an exchange on the first drive of the game that Wisconsin recovered at the 10 âÄî but they were making no excuses. âÄúThatâÄôs our job,âÄù junior linebacker Simoni Lawrence said of stopping the Badgers when they start a drive from deep in Gophers territory. âÄúWe have to keep them from getting a touchdown. We think we should hold them to three.âÄù No such luck; WisconsinâÄôs lead was stretched to 11 and proved insurmountable, but not before the offense showed flashes of what itâÄôs capable of one more time. Weber orchestrated an 11-play, 60-yard scoring drive that brought Minnesota to within three with a little over four minutes to play. It proved too little too late; the inconsistency could not be overcome. âÄúThatâÄôs what weâÄôre working on,âÄù senior defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg said of becoming a more consistent offensive football team. âÄúItâÄôs just going to take time.âÄù