Offense not scoring points

Tyler Rushmeyer

With another road beat down, this time at the hands of Ohio State on Saturday, Minnesota’s cumulative performance in the last three weeks perhaps has been the worst in the Glen Mason era.

Never known for his strong defenses, the coach has relied on an elite offense to equalize the playing field during his tenure.

Now, with a shaky and injury-riddled defense that looks similar to those of years past, the offense has followed suit, looking worse by the week. The result: The Gophers have been outscored by a margin of 80 points during a nightmarish October.

When asked about this year’s edition of the offense, Mason sighed and then summed up what most fans would agree on.

“We’re not very good. What can I say?” he said. “I’m very, very disappointed in our output.”

That output has been just 22 points compared to opponents’ 102 in the last three contests. It represents the largest three-game, combined deficit since coach Jim Wacker’s Gophers were outscored 134 to 38 in three-straight defeats in 1996.

Somehow, the Gophers pulled out a victory during their three-week slide, a narrow win over Division-IAA North Dakota State, in which they were outplayed on both sides of the ball.

Along with getting outscored in the last three contests, the Gophers have been out-gained 1,265 yards to 631 yards, while picking up 28 first downs compared to their opponents’ 73.

Senior quarterback Bryan Cupito was visibly frustrated throughout the contest on Saturday, finishing just 13-of-25 for 120 yards, while throwing three interceptions and being sacked twice.

His performance against Ohio State last season, where he finished with nearly 400 yards passing, personified how far Minnesota has fallen in a period of just under a year.

In the last three games he has been sacked seven times, while Minnesota’s offense has broken the 200-yard mark just once.

For comparison, the Gophers finished with less than 400 yards only once and allowed just three sacks during the entire 2005 season.

The rushing game followed the passing game’s example against the Buckeyes, as junior running back Amir Pinnix finished with 47 yards on 14 attempts, averaging a mere 1.8 yards per carry.

Quote of the Game
“They’re a very good football team. We didn’t have to play them today for me to know that.”
— coach Glen Mason

Junior center Tony Brinkhaus said the offense has been increasingly frustrated in recent weeks, particularly in the rushing aspect.

“I know we can run the ball. I just don’t know what’s going on,” said Brinkhaus, who

proceeded to answer his own question. “Too many breakdowns.”

Minnesota players consistently point out the fact that it takes 11 players to make the offense go and that is something that has been lost in recent weeks.

“We’ve had our problems and we continued to have problems today,” Mason said. “And it’s hard to get well against a team like Ohio State.”

Defining Moment

Down just 10-0 midway through the second quarter, Minnesota forced an Ohio State fumble at the Buckeyes’ 38-yard line.

With a chance to get on the board, the offense failed to gain 10 yards on four plays and Ohio State took over, scoring a touchdown 12 plays later.

The shutout, the first in 96 games for the Gophers dating back to a 1997 loss to Iowa,

has followed offensive outputs of 12 and 10 points in the preceding weeks. The 22 combined points are the also the lowest three-week total since 1996.

But, while the offense has been historically bad, the defense is not without blame.

Battling injuries and fatigue, it’s been clearly outmatched in its last two conference games.

Sophomore defensive back Dominic Jones, after minutes of questioning, admitted to the team feeling the effects of late-season football.

“Honestly, I think we’re mentally tired right now,” he said. “Anytime we’re going through what we’re going through, you got to think (that) psychologically, some guys aren’t there.”