Gophers offense finding rhythm after early struggles

The team has put up at least 25 points in each of its last three games this season.

The Gophers offense started the season off slow but has found its rhythm the past three weeks.
 
Minnesota has 1,235 total yards of offense in its last three games, after gaining only 173 yards in a shutout loss against Northwestern on Oct. 3.
 
Last week, interim head coach Tracy Claeys emphasized involving the team’s best playmakers on offense, and the Gophers had 461 yards on Saturday against Michigan, which was the top scoring defense in the nation at the time. 
 
“[We want to] get the ball to the best players we have in space as much as [we] can,” Claeys said. “So whatever fits in those parameter[s] is what we’re going to do.”
 
Against Michigan, sophomore tight end Brandon Lingen caught five passes for a career-high 111 yards, the third-most receiving yards by a Gophers tight end since 1950.
Senior wide receiver KJ Maye led the team with six catches on Saturday for 58 yards. 
 
“[Claeys] does a good job of getting us to play well for him, and that’s something I respect about him,” Maye said.
 
In their last three games, the Gophers’ offense has averaged 30.7 points per game, which is almost double the 15.4 points per game they scored in their first five. 
Redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Leidner has helped, setting career highs in passing yards in back-to-back games against Nebraska and Michigan. 
 
“I think one of the things is he’s standing in, delivering the ball better than he has because I think he’s feeling better and because of that, he’s more accurate,” offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said.
 
Minnesota set a season-high in points three weeks ago against Purdue with 41 and had its second-highest yardage total of the season against Michigan. 
 
One thing that’s helped is that the Gophers have had continuity on the offensive line the past three weeks, with no new injuries to report.
 
That continuity helped pave the way for 326 rushing yards against Purdue and two back-to-back 300-yard passing games for the Gophers.
 
Another reason for the offense’s new rhythm is Minnesota’s go-to receiver. 
 
Maye set career-highs two weeks ago against Nebraska with 94 yards receiving on 11 receptions.
 
The senior also caught a crucial fourth-down pass in the game against Michigan, though the Gophers were unable to score a go-ahead touchdown on the drive.
 
“When in doubt, [Leidner] is going to try and find KJ,” Limegrover said. “[Leidner] knows if he gets it in the area, KJ’s going to find a way to make a play.” 
 
This week will be the team’s first offensive plan without Jerry Kill in charge. 
 
Claeys has been adjusting to having more input on offense and will face a tough test along with the team against No. 1 Ohio State. 
 
“I’ve really enjoyed [being with the offense],” Claeys said. “To be around the offensive kids in practice has been good.”