Gophers’ passing game improving

The team has 1,200 net yards passing total in its last four games this season.

Tight end Brandon Lignen crosses into the end zone, scoring a touchdown in the second quarter at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa on Oct. 14 where the Gophers lost to the Hawkeyes 35-40.

Liam James Doyle, Daily File Photo

Tight end Brandon Lignen crosses into the end zone, scoring a touchdown in the second quarter at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa on Oct. 14 where the Gophers lost to the Hawkeyes 35-40.

Ryan Falk

Iowa fans chanted loudly in the fourth quarter on Saturday, but the Gophers offense was unaffected and drove for a six-play, 75-yard drive that only took 45 seconds.
 
The drive included pass plays of 17, 13 and 14 yards, helping Minnesota pull close to an upset over Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.
 
The Gophers were not known as a passing offense under retired head coach Jerry Kill, but over the past four weeks passing has been Minnesota’s most dangerous weapon on offense, and it all started with redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Leidner.
 
“If you can go back and trace his progression over the year, you can almost see with each game that he’s improved — how the mechanics are better because he’s using stepping into his throws and using his body better because there is more confidence there to be able to throw it and not have defender’s face mask in your chest every single time,” offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said.
 
Leidner has thrown for at least 250 yards in each of his last four games and set career-highs in passing yards in back-to-back games against Nebraska and Michigan.
 
The quarterback has been helped by a stable offensive line, something he didn’t have in front of him for the first few games of the year.
 
The protection has now allowed Liedner to put up career numbers.
 
“It’s really up to [the offensive line] to be good in the throwing game,” redshirt junior offensive lineman Jonah Pirsig said. “It’s up to us to give [Leidner] the time, so whether it’s play action or just a drop back, we know if we do our job, [Leidner] is going to do his.”
 
Minnesota has also called more passes early in games for Leidner to get into a groove.
 
Leidner had 123 passing yards in the Gophers’ first three drives against Iowa, which resulted in 14 points for Minnesota. 
 
“The coaches have done a pretty good job of getting us some of the plays early on in the game, which are able to get momentum going and get in a rhythm offensively,” Leidner said. 
 
Leidner is not the only player to break records in this stretch.
 
Senior wide receiver KJ Maye and sophomore tight end Brandon Lingen have also set new career highs in receiving yards during the team’s last four games.
 
Maye’s career high came with 116 yards against Ohio State, while Lingen set his with 111 yards against Michigan.
 
The team’s added success in the passing game allowed it to put up 35 points at Iowa — the most the Hawkeyes have allowed all season.
 
“That’s something that starts in practice,” Maye said. “We’ve got good concepts that we’re putting in to get the passing game going … like everyone being accountable, all the receivers, tight ends, being consistent and giving [Leidner] a target.”