Gophers football’s defense looks to rebound versus Indiana

Against Iowa, the Gophers allowed the most points to an opponent since Week Two.

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Gophers football players sit on the sidelines during a game at TCF Bank Stadium on Oct. 3, 2015.

by Matthew Kennedy

Four hundred nine yards to 277. Gopher fans would think the team who gained 409 yards would come out victorious in Iowa City on Nov. 13. However, that wasn’t the case as the No. 17 Iowa Hawkeyes ousted the Minnesota Gophers 27-22.

21 of Iowa’s 27 points came on “explosive” plays, according to Gophers defensive coordinator Joe Rossi.

The Hawkeyes’ game-winning touchdown featured a flurry of missed tackles by Gophers defensive backs leading Iowa’s Keagan Johnson to the end zone.

A lack of sacks from the Gophers’ defense was prevalent in last Saturday’s game as well, with Iowa’s offensive line having a superb pass blocking day.

“We took that personally,” Nyles Pinckney said. “We need to get pressure on the quarterback to help our secondary.”

Gophers’ star defensive lineman Boye Mafe was noticeably silent against Iowa. Mafe posted one total tackle during the entire game.

Additionally, Minnesota had two dropped interceptions last Saturday that could’ve been massive momentum changers. Mariano Sori-Marin missed an interception that led Iowa to score and another missed interception would have led to favorable field position for the Gophers.

“It’s a learning experience but when you get those opportunities you have to make the most of it,” Rossi said on Wednesday.

Moreover, the Gophers gave up their most points to a defense since week one against the national leader in total offense, then No. 4 Ohio State. This is a far cry from a Minnesota defense that is ranked 7th in the country and hadn’t given up more than 20 points in a game since Oct. 16 versus Nebraska.

“We have the best defensive staff I’ve ever coached with,” Rossi said. “The failings of last week have to make us grow this week. Make a mistake, come back, respond, fix it and get better.”

Looking forward to next week, the Indiana Hoosiers pose a peculiar matchup as they rotate between multiple quarterbacks in the game. Grant Gremel and Jack Tuttle play as more traditional pocket passers, while Donaven McCulley is their ‘Cole Kramer’ type of quarterback who mainly keeps the pigskin on designed runs.

“From a defensive perspective we have to be tuned into who is in the game and we have to understand that we will see different plays called between who is in,” Rossi said.

The reason for the quarterback carousel for Tom Allen’s squad is due to the injury of starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. Against Penn State, Penix Jr. separated an AC Joint in his left shoulder on Oct. 2.

The message from P.J. Fleck to his players has stayed the same: one championship week at a time. This championship week is at Bloomington, Ind., with a kickoff time of 2:30 p.m.on the Big Ten Network.

“It feels like it flew by,” Pinckney said of the 2021 season. “Every little precious second I get with the team — practice, workout, team meeting — you appreciate them a lot more.”