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“The Watchers” is a film adaptation of the 2022 book of the same name by A.M. Shine.
Review: “The Watchers”
Published June 13, 2024

Minnesota’s first loss prompted questions on both sides of the ball

The Gophers’ defense allowed 414 passing yards while Kaliakmanis struggled to complete passes, completing 38% of his passes.
Image by Jack Rodgers
Head coach P.J. Fleck celebrates on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018 at Huntington Bank Stadium. The Gophers’ loss against Northwestern weekend leaves no clear roadmap for where the team goes next.

Minnesota football could not keep up with the No. 17 North Carolina Tar Heels on Saturday, losing their first game of the season 31-13.

The Gophers’ defense had various blown coverages throughout the match. North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye, one of the best in college football, took advantage and collected 414 yards through the air.

In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Joe Rossi, Minnesota’s defensive coordinator, discussed the defense’s struggles against the Tar Heels leading to a loss.

“We didn’t play well enough to win. Poor performance … We got to be better,” Rossi said. “We gave up too many explosive plays. We didn’t do well enough on third down. To me, the game came down to those two things.”

North Carolina went 12 for 17 on third down opportunities compared to Minnesota’s offense, who converted 3 of their 12.

While there were plenty of negatives on the defensive side of the ball, senior defensive back Jack Henderson stood out as the Gophers’ top playmaker.

During the press conference, Henderson walked through his interception off Maye and the coverage responsibilities he had on the play.

“They shot the back out and, in that specific coverage, I couldn’t get out-leveraged by the running back. Typically, when they throw a back out in the flat, there is always something behind you,” Henderson said. “Coach Rossi always says not to take the cheese, so I kind of played it top-down, and Drake Maye wanted the seven route behind me and I just went up and got it.”

Minnesota’s secondary added two more interceptions against North Carolina, putting them at six on the season, the third-most in the country.

The Gophers offense matched Maye’s two interceptions. The first came from a pass by quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis that was tipped off the hands of tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford. The other was thrown by backup quarterback Cole Kramer, who threw a deep ball downfield to receiver Daniel Jackson.

Kaliakmanis had a tough time hitting receivers and taking advantage of a strong run game that rushed for 170 yards. He finished the game completing 11 of his 29 pass attempts for 133 passing yards.

Greg Harbaugh Jr., Minnesota’s offensive play-caller, said he wants to see the offense “execute better under the pressure of the situation.”

“Can’t let the moment get too big for us at certain times. Just continue to get better every single day,” said Harbaugh “It’s all about development. We’re a developmental program.”

True freshman running back Darius Taylor is an excellent example of the program’s developmental process.

Taylor took over the role he featured back in week two and has produced significant numbers since. Last week, the running back led the way for the Gophers, putting up 138 yards on 22 carries.

Head coach P.J. Fleck, during a press conference Monday morning, discussed the impact Taylor has had and how he can further improve going forward.

“I mean, Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice in three games, he’s very good. But if you analyze his runs, there are so many things that he can do so much better,” Fleck said.

The Gophers look to improve on both sides of the ball as they head on the road this week to Evanston, Illinois, to face the Northwestern Wildcats.

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