Defense a disaster for Gophers

The Gophers’ secondary gave up 580 total yards to the Owls’ offense.

by Brian Deutsch

>MIAMI – After giving up 32 and 35 points in their first two games, the Gophers needed significant improvement against Florida Atlantic in the heat of Miami.

In allowing the Owls to score 42 points Saturday, the Gophers did not quite accomplish that.

“On defense, we (Minnesota) need to work on tackling. That was the story in the Bowling Green game, and that was the story in this game,” said senior linebacker Mike Sherels. “We’ve got to get back to the basics of football.”

The Gophers’ secondary gave up a season-high 463 yards through the air, while also giving up a total of 117 net yards on the ground.

Florida Atlantic quarterback Rusty Smith was 27 of 44 and threw five touchdowns in the contest. In his previous two games, Smith was a combined 26 of 48 for 320 yards and two touchdowns.

Florida Atlantic also had two receivers gain over 100 yards, in Jason Harmon who caught five for 104 yards and Cortez Gent who reeled in four receptions for 109 yards. The Owls receiving corps also had two other players with at least 80 yards.

Coming into the game, coach Tim Brewster said Florida Atlantic was going to be more of a running team. But the Owls were anything but a running team, as they showed the Gophers a pass-oriented spread offense which has killed their defense the past three weeks.

“We’ve got to go back and give our kids a better chance with our defensive scheme,” said Brewster. “We’re going to figure it out.”

FAU record breakers

Florida Atlantic had a record day Saturday in the win over Minnesota – including several by sophomore quarterback Rusty Smith.

Smith broke Florida Atlantic’s record for passing yards in the game by throwing 463 yards against the Gophers.

The new record eclipsed the previous record-holder Jared Allen’s 352 yards, which was set in 2004.

Smith also set records for pass attempts (44) and touchdown passes (5), while his 27 completions were second-most in team history.

Redshirt freshman cornerback Tavious Polo also had a career day, picking off Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber three times.

Polo’s final interception sealed the win for the Owls as he pulled down a wayward pass with three seconds left in the game.

“I knew (the pass) was coming,” Polo said. “I told my safety, ‘The next time they run that hitch route, I’m jumping it, watch my back,’ and then it happened, and I jumped it.”

Notes on the Game

Redshirt freshman center D.J. Burris left the game early in the first half and did not return with what appeared to be a left leg injury.

Junior kicker Jason Giannini was absent from the sidelines one week after losing his job as starting placekicker.

Giannini’s replacement junior Joel Monroe was perfect in the game, hitting all four of his extra points and adding a 21-yard field goal.

Senior wide receiver Ernie Wheelwright tied the school record for consecutive games with a touchdown reception (7) when he hauled in an eight-yard pass from Weber late in the fourth quarter.

-Luke Middendorf contributed to this article

Quote of the game

“I’m very, very disappointed in myself because we didn’t do a very good job in the first half and that’s on me as the head football coach,” Brewster said. “I’ve got to do a better job of giving our kids a chance.”
– coach Tim Brewster

Defining moment

With 30 seconds remaining in the game and trailing by a field goal, quarterback Adam Weber and the Gophers have a chane to complete the comeback. But with just three seconds left, Weber throws his fourth interception of the game within field goal range of new kicker junior Joel Monroe.
– Brian Deutsch