Offensive line plays well in victory over Oregon State

The group has adjusted well to the coaching changes over the offseason.

Gophers offensive line readies for the snap from Oregon  State at TCF Bank Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016 at TCF Bank Stadium.

Bridget Bennett

Gophers offensive line readies for the snap from Oregon State at TCF Bank Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016 at TCF Bank Stadium.

Mike Hendrickson

The Gophers gathered for a team meeting over Labor Day weekend to watch highlights from their 30-23 victory over Oregon State.

Among the highlights was Jonah Pirsig, the Gophers 6-foot-9-inch, 325-pound right tackle, pancaking opposing defensive line players throughout the game.

“[Pirsig] was just leveling guys all over the place,” said redshirt senior quarterback Mitch Leidner. “Quite a few guys got called out because they were knocking guys all around … It was good to see the [offensive] line knocking people on the ground.”

Pirsig said being recognized by the team for blocking was new and rewarding.

“Definitely some motivation for each week. It’s always fun to be shown for doing good things,” he said. “It’s never fun to be shown doing bad things. So I think some of the other guys kind of saw that and they want to be that guy too.”

Minnesota finished its first game of the season without allowing any sacks.

The only weak spots displayed by the offensive line during the season opener were two snaps by sophomore center Tyler Moore that flew over Leidner’s head, and four false start penalties.

One errant snap led to a loss of 23 yards and the other gave Oregon State two points from a safety.

“There’s been a couple times in practice where [his snaps] come in a little bit hot,” Leidner said. “But at the same time, you can’t just blame him and get frustrated at him; you’ve got to keep him going. He’s only a sophomore, so I think he understands what he needs to do this week.”

Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys said he was pleased with the group’s performance overall, but said the penalties and high snaps were areas to learn from.

“There are the pre-snap penalty things, though, that we got to get better at. We control that,” Claeys said, “and obviously the two bad snaps, so there’s sloppiness there, but we’ll go to work on it.”

The offensive line went through massive changes during the offseason, including the hiring of a new offensive line coach, Bart Miller. 

The Gophers also added two junior college transfers — left tackle Garrison Wright and right guard Vincent Calhoun — to the offensive line. Both of them started Sept. 1 against the Beavers.

“I thought they played extremely well for their first big-time game coming out of [junior college],” Pirsig said. “I think they handled the pressure well, and Garrison locked down that left tackle spot and Vince, he was right up there with knockdowns and pancakes, too.”

Miller made a trophy that will bear the lineman’s name with the most pancake blocks at the end of the season, something he has done at other schools where he has coached.

The trophy, shaped like a cup, has “Minnesota Offensive Line Knockdown Cup” written on it, Pirsig said.

“It’s not only fun to watch [highlights] on film, but [the trophy gives a] little motivation for the end of the season and each week,” he said. “[The trophy] kind of keeps guys hungry and wanting to get their name on it.”

Notebook:

– Sophomore wide receiver Rashad Still will be out for about four weeks, Claeys said. Still injured his right shoulder in the third quarter of the Oregon State game.

-Redshirt junior wide receiver Eric Carter will be back for the Indiana State game on Saturday after missing the Oregon State game with an ankle injury. He is listed as a starter on the depth chart.

-The statuses of tight end Brandon Lingen and running back Shannon Brooks are still unknown for Saturday’s game, Claeys said. Lingen is recovering from shoulder surgery, while Brooks has missed time recovering from right foot surgery.

-Sophomore linebacker Julian Huff will get his second career start against Indiana State. Huff finished with six tackles against Oregon State.

-Redshirt senior linebacker Nick Rallis will miss the Indiana State game after suffering a left arm injury in the second quarter of the Oregon State game.