MN Gophers improve to 2-0 with 25-6 victory over E Michigan. Week 3 travel to #20 UNC, QB Drake Maye
The Minnesota Gophers improved to 2-0 with a convincing victory over Eastern Michigan. We only had a 10-6 lead at halftime, but finished the game out with a 25-6 victory. PJ Fleck and offense had one main goal in this game: Run the ball and try to find out who the actual starting RB1 should be. Well, they figured it out. They had Senior transfer Sean Tyler listed as RB1 for the first game and the start of this game, but it was not going as planned. Tyler could never seem to break away from defenders. After consistently gaining about 2 yards per attempt and fumbling twice against Eastern Michigan, the Gophers wisely turned the backfield duties over to True Freshman Darius Taylor who turned an opportunity into a 33 carry, 193 yard, and 1 TD performance to solidify himself as the RB1. Athan Kaliakmanis and the wide receivers had a quiet night passing for only 117 yards (45 yards to Crooms and 42 yards to Jackson). That wasn't the focus of the night, but I would have liked to see a little more success in the passing game in the first 2 weeks before we travelled to North Carolina. Either way, the Gophers are off to a nice start at 2-0...not every team can still say that!
Week 3 will be the toughest test of the young season. The Gophers are traveling to Chapel Hill, NC to square off with the #20 North Carolina Tar Heels. The Tar Heels are led by projected top-3 pick in next year's NFL Draft in QB Drake Maye along with a very solid RB in Omarion Hampton, who just put up 234 yards and 3 TDs against Appalachian State in a 40-34 2OT victory. North Carolina has also focused on the running game to start the season, as opposed to relying on Drake Maye's arm so far. This will be an interesting game as the Gophers will likely be the best defense the Tar Heels face all season and Drake Maye will be the best QB the Gophers face this year. Tyler Rubin and Justin Walley are going to need to step up big time in this game, expect to see them both making a HUGE impact. I would like the see WR Chris Altman-Bell finally make his return from the bad injury last year and we also need our top tackler on defense to return for this game, LB Cody Lindenberg, to help stop the run. These 2 captains have yet to play this season and are 2 of the most important players on the roster. Whether these 2 guys play or not, the Gophers and Tar Heels are going to be battling back and forth all game and I expect this one to come down to the final few drives. I said in my season preview that the first couple of weeks would be games that we use to find out our new identity and RB1, with the departure of Mo Ibrahim. I also said the game against UNC would end up being Athan Kaliakmanis' coming out party as a QB. There will be plenty of NFL scouts at this game to watch Drake Maye, but Athan will go toe to toe with him in the passing attack and start to turn some heads and put himself on the national radar. I am going to stick to my guns on this prediction and I predict a 27-24 statement victory for the Minnesota Gophers. Now that we have Darius Taylor in the backfield, I think the Gophers will have a balanced offensive attack and a defensive performance that will prove to be enough to stop this potent UNC offense.