The good, the bad, the B1G: Gophers 42, Eastern Illinois 20

The good, the bad, the B1G: Gophers 42, Eastern Illinois 20
August 28, 2014, 10:30 pm
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Vinnie Duber

Minnesota opened its season with a 42-20 win over Eastern Illinois on Thursday in the Twin Cities. Here's the good, the bad and the B1G from the Gophers' victory.

The good

— Minnesota reached the eight-win mark last season thanks to a strong rushing attack that could compete with anybody in the Big Ten. David Cobb served as a workhorse in that attack, finishing 2013 with 1,202 yards on the ground. Well, the Gophers picked up where they left off last season, having a solid amount of success on the ground in the opener. Minnesota rushed for 182 yards against EIU, but the best sign was multiple successful ball-carriers. No, it wasn't just Cobb doing the work Thursday. He teamed with Donnell Kirkwood, Rodrick Williams Jr. and freshman Berkley Edwards to run all over the Panthers. Edwards, in particular, impressed, rushing in for two touchdowns, including a 42-yard scamper in the fourth quarter. He's a redshirt freshman and was making his NCAA debut.

— Though quarterback Mitch Leidner didn't have eye-popping numbers, he was solid Thursday. He accounted for three of the team's first four touchdowns of the night: two rushing and one passing. In that two-quarterback format last year, Leidner was the more run-oriented of the two. He showed that rushing ability again Thursday, even lowering his head and taking on a few defenders as he barreled into the end zone for his second rushing score. Leidner is the clear-cut No. 1 guy for the Gophers this season. Let's hope that confidence he showed this offseason can lead to more production against tougher opponents.

[MORE BIG TEN: Gophers' Maxx Williams jumped over this guy, and it was awesome]

The bad

— The Gophers' passing game didn't really show any difference or any improvement from last season, when it was one of the weaker air attacks in the conference. Leidner completed only nine passes for 144 yards and a touchdown. Despite a couple big completions to tight end Maxx Williams and that TD throw to Donovahn Jones, there wasn't much to even dissect. It's just one game, but the much-discussed need for improvement in the passing game seems to still be a need. A balanced offense could be the difference between a successful season like last year's (when the offense was admittedly unbalanced) and an unsuccessful one.

— It was an overall solid night for the Minnesota defense, with EIU scoring their 20 points all in the fourth quarter, most of them in garbage time, including the Panthers' third TD as time expired. Still, the Gophers allowed more than 400 yards of total offense. But the biggest problem for the Gopher D on Thursday was the injuries to a pair of defensive linemen. For a team that was already facing the challenge of replacing Ra'Shede Hageman, this could be a problem moving forward.

[MORE BIG TEN: Gary Nova unleashes 78-yard TD pass on Rutgers' first B1G play]

The B1G

— Thursday night's game didn't always look pretty, with EIU losing two fumbles, tossing an interception and missing a field goal. But give the Gophers credit for capitalizing on those mistakes. The most spectacular capitalization was a blocked punt the Gophers turned into a touchdown. You've got to love blocked punts!

(Video from BTN)

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