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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

Analysis: Grading Athan Kaliakmanis’s performance from the first half of the season

What needs to change for Minnesota to pick it up offensively the rest of the way.
Image by Gabrielle Erenstein
The Minnesota Gophers faced off against the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. The Gophers ended up losing with a score of 10-52.

Michigan obliterated Minnesota at home on prime-time television, leaving the Gophers searching for answers heading into the bye week.

One question lies with Athan Kaliakmanis: What do the Gophers have in the redshirt sophomore quarterback?

The Wolverines held Kaliakmanis to just 52 passing yards during the 52-10 route last Saturday. The Gophers quarterback only completed five passes the entire game with the exception of two that went to the other team for touchdowns.

“You can’t win games by giving them two pick-sixes,” said Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck in the post-game press conference. “The main difference was they were really efficient and we were off schedule and it felt like we were behind the chains the whole game.”

Handing Michigan, the No. 2 team in the country according to this week’s Associated Press poll, 14 points when they previously did not allow their opponent to score double digits in a game is not a winning recipe.

Kaliakmanis’ passing struggles

The Gophers are 127th in the nation in passing yards per game (132.8). They sit above three other teams: Iowa, Navy and Air Force. A caveat of this statistic is that the Air Force and Navy both have the top four rushing attacks in the country in total yards accumulated on the ground, whereas Minnesota is ranked 40th.

Rounding up his statistics, Kaliakmanis completed 55.9% of his passes in the first six games and holds a 1-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, good enough for a 55.9 QBR.

Minnesota has yet to surpass 200 passing yards in a game this season and completed 14 or fewer passing attempts in every game except for week one against Nebraska.

“We’re really excited to get going in the film room,” Kaliakmanis said after the loss to Michigan. “We’re just a hungry group of guys. Like I said … it’s the line of success: It goes [up] and then comes back down. We’re just ready to learn.”

Minnesota’s offense struggled to put the pieces together Saturday, only producing 169 yards of offense.

One key aspect where the Gophers fell short was third down. Minnesota converted 21.4 percent of their third down chances (3-14).

This has been a repeating theme for the offense all season. The Gophers have struggled to keep drives alive, posting a 39% conversion rate on third down throughout the first half of the season.

Passing out of these situations has proved to be difficult. Kaliakmanis, out of 114 qualified starters, ranks 108th in passing efficiency through the first six games of the season.

Comparing Kaliakmanis to Tanner Morgan

Through Athan Kaliakmanis’ first 11 starts in the regular season, he totaled 1,579 passing yards, nine passing touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Comparatively, former quarterback Tanner Morgan put up 2,398 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 7 seven interceptions through his first 11 starts as a Gopher.

Morgan led the Gophers to an 11-2 record in his second season as the starter and a bowl victory over No. 14 Auburn in the Outback Bowl.

There is no shortage of weapons on this year’s offense with three solid running backs in Darius Taylor, Zach Evans and Sean Tyler. Also, the three receiving targets in Daniel Jackson, Christian Autman-Bell and Brevyn Spann-Ford who have played with both Morgan and Kaliakmanis.

The Gophers need more production from Kaliakmanis to reignite the offense and increase their odds of making a bowl game this season.

Hope for the future

Offensive coordinator Greg Harbaugh Jr. said during a press conference on Oct. 4 Kaliakmanis’ preparation leveled up before the Louisiana game and moving into the Michigan game.

As Harbaugh spoke on Kaliakmanis’ growth this season through his preparation, one thing he mentioned was Kaliakmanis’ ability to adapt to new situations within a game.

“The thing I keep saying to him is by the time he gets to the game, he has played the game in his head,” Harbaugh said. “When you play the game in your head a number of times… and then you get to the game and you see [the defensive] look that number of times and they’ve thrown something a little bit different at you, it’s not something that throws you off.”

Kaliakmanis spoke earlier in the press conference about how his preparation has changed after the loss to North Carolina. The Gophers quarterback feels more prepared heading into games than he had prior to Louisiana and Michigan.

Minnesota’s offense will have their work cut out for them heading into Kinnick Stadium on Oct. 21, looking to beat the Hawkeyes on the road for the first time since 1999.

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