Gophers defense has been dominant, but needs better pass rush for Big Ten play

BleedGopher

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Per Marcus:

The Gophers' best pass rushing effort in five years helped the whole defense put on a show in last season's win against West Virginia in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.

The defense recorded five sacks against the Mountaineers, the most for the team since a six-sack performance against Nebraska in 2017.

From that QB wrecking crew last season, two-time Gophers sack leader Boye Mafe is now playing in the NFL. So is Esezi Otomewo, who had two sacks in the bowl victory.

As Big Ten play begins for them Saturday at Michigan State, the Gophers (3-0) hope to see more pass rushing talent emerge from a defense that has been dominant in just about every other area.

"We're going to have to get way more pass rushers as we get into the Big Ten," Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said after last week's 49-7 win against Colorado. "We got some really talented young guys, and you're starting to see them show up for us."


Go Gophers!!
 



MNVCGUY

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100% agree, but man do i love sacks
Sacks are awesome and we have whiffed on a few so far this year. Hasn't come back to haunt us but in Big Ten games when we have the chance to take the QB down the players have to finish.
 



cjbfbp

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100% agree, but man do i love sacks

Yes, I wish we got more of them. Even with our two draftees, the Gophers were ranked #10 in the league last season in sacks against opponents. Even with the lowly competition we've played so far this season, we're tied for 11th in the league. Sacks against opponents just aren't a strength of ours.

Unfortunately, our next opponent leads the league in sacks so far with 12 in three games. They also led the league last year with 42 in 13 games.

It must be said that we don't give up a lot of them. Fifth lowest in the league last year and we're tied with OSU for the lowest total (2) given up so far this year.
 

MNVCGUY

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Yes, I wish we got more of them. Even with our two draftees, the Gophers were ranked #10 in the league last season in sacks against opponents. Even with the lowly competition we've played so far this season, we're tied for 11th in the league. Sacks against opponents just aren't a strength of ours.

Unfortunately, our next opponent leads the league in sacks so far with 12 in three games. They also led the league last year with 42 in 13 games.

It must be said that we don't give up a lot of them. Fifth lowest in the league last year and we're tied with OSU for the lowest total (2) given up so far this year.
MSU's sack total is a little misleading. They got 7 in week 1 against Western Michigan, 5 in week 2 against Akron and 0 in week 3 against Washington. That is not to say MSU isn't good at getting to the QB, just that the number so far may be a little inflated due to who they played and the way the games played out. Windon had 4 against Western Michigan so clearly he had a matchup he could exploit. Unlikely to be able to do that to the same degree against Big Ten and power 5 offensive lineman.

They are good and getting teams to put the ball on the ground so ball security is going to be huge for the entire offense.

Our lack of sacks is also somewhat by design. Rossi is less likely to risk going for a sack in favor of clogging up the field and making it harder for teams to operate. Tough to argue with the results.
 

swingman

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Austin Booker just got on the field in game 3...curious if we see more of him moving forward...also true frosh Anthony Smith has looked good per Burns at 247...
 

cjbfbp

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MSU's sack total is a little misleading. They got 7 in week 1 against Western Michigan, 5 in week 2 against Akron and 0 in week 3 against Washington. That is not to say MSU isn't good at getting to the QB, just that the number so far may be a little inflated due to who they played and the way the games played out. Windon had 4 against Western Michigan so clearly he had a matchup he could exploit. Unlikely to be able to do that to the same degree against Big Ten and power 5 offensive lineman.

They are good and getting teams to put the ball on the ground so ball security is going to be huge for the entire offense.

Our lack of sacks is also somewhat by design. Rossi is less likely to risk going for a sack in favor of clogging up the field and making it harder for teams to operate. Tough to argue with the results.

I'll buy Rossi's strategy but it's frustrating to see us take down an opposing QB so rarely and that predates Rossi. I can see why Mich State's sack total so far is inflated but they did lead the league last year as well.
 



upnorthkid

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will be the key to beating teams like Mich St and Purdue. Need complementary football as the secondary can only cover guys for so long.
 

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Is it possible we were also keeping our defense pretty vanilla so far and could end up with more sacks as add some wrinkles?
 

watertown 1987 guy n

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That could be our biggest weakness, inability to put pressure on a competent QB. Seems we may need to take more risk w blitzes.

If Michigan States sacks are inflated due to quality of opponent up to this point then why are ours not. Bottom line, they are much better at getting to the QB than us.

So, keys to the game. We need to stop them from getting to the QB and we need to pressure their QB. Other than that we may be pretty evenly matched.
 

MNVCGUY

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That could be our biggest weakness, inability to put pressure on a competent QB. Seems we may need to take more risk w blitzes.

If Michigan States sacks are inflated due to quality of opponent up to this point then why are ours not. Bottom line, they are much better at getting to the QB than us.

So, keys to the game. We need to stop them from getting to the QB and we need to pressure their QB. Other than that we may be pretty evenly matched.
2021 Big Ten Stats
Minnesota was #10 in sacks but #2 in scoring, total, run and pass defense.

Michigan State was #1 in sacks but #10 in scoring, #14 total, #4 run, #14 pass defense

So I guess I have a hard time worrying our sack total that much when our defense is playing great. If a team is lighting us up through the air because we can't get pressure I will start to worry. Would you rather be the best in the conference at sacks or up near the top of the conference in every other meaningful defensive category? Not a tough call for me at all.
 



noamfromm

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Is it possible we were also keeping our defense pretty vanilla so far and could end up with more sacks as add some wrinkles?
Derek Burns mentioned on one of the breakdown podcasts that he thinks Rossi is/will implement more pressure than he has in the past.
 

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Derek Burns mentioned on one of the breakdown podcasts that he thinks Rossi is/will implement more pressure than he has in the past.
I don't recall seeing a lot (if any) blitzes from LBs or safeties so far this year.

Maybe I just missed them. Does anyone else recall anything besides base D this year so far?
 

STPGopher

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Is it possible we were also keeping our defense pretty vanilla so far and could end up with more sacks as add some wrinkles?
Lot's of times coaches will force the team to play mostly base early in the season to work on fundamentals.
 

MNVCGUY

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I don't recall seeing a lot (if any) blitzes from LBs or safeties so far this year.

Maybe I just missed them. Does anyone else recall anything besides base D this year so far?
I think we blitzed a corner on one of the first defensive snaps against Colorado which led to the turnover if I remember right.

That said, I don't think we have blitzed much at all because there hasn't been a reason to take risks when the base defense is dominating the way it has been.
 

Dakota2

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Is it possible we were also keeping our defense pretty vanilla so far and could end up with more sacks as add some wrinkles?
We have only blitzed a handful of times resulting in two or three sacks.
 

Dakota2

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I don't recall seeing a lot (if any) blitzes from LBs or safeties so far this year.

Maybe I just missed them. Does anyone else recall anything besides base D this year so far?
Smith had a sack/strip on a blitz, Striggow had an unabtructed sack lined up way outside, and Rush/Striggow had a sack ( not a blitz).
 

Dakota2

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I think we blitzed a corner on one of the first defensive snaps against Colorado which led to the turnover if I remember right.

That said, I don't think we have blitzed much at all because there hasn't been a reason to take risks when the base defense is dominating the way it has been.
Terrel Smith, sack/strip.
 

Otis

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I have a few Captain Obvious points to make here on why our sack totals are low:

1. We play in the “air out of the ball” West. Only Purdue establishes the pass by passing the ball. Pretty much everyone else runs, runs and then runs some more. Nebraska tries to pass but their defense can’t get off the field, so they get limited opportunities.

2. We rarely get big leads in B1G play forcing the other team to pass and you can’t force Purdue to run! So opposing teams stick to their ground game.

3. We control the ball. When you have the ball for 60% of the game or more you have limited sack opportunities even if somebody decides it’s time for Graham Mertz to throw one up for grabs.

4. Would you want to test our secondary? We are so loaded back there 4* Steven Ortiz has trouble getting on the field. Not a lot of people going, “We can attack Minnesota through the air.”

Then there’s the head scratchers:

1. Shouldn’t we get coverage sacks? Well, if there were QBs in the West patient enough to wait for someone to get open we might, but we provide enough of a rush to keep marginal QBs from hanging in there.

2. Purdue passes all the time, we should get sacks against them. - well, no, that’s not gonna happen. They get rid of the ball quickly. O”Connel is more “Center” than QB. They run quick outs, screens, slants and buttons. He never holds the ball for very long.

So there you have it. We could have John Randle and Bubba Smith in their primes out there and your still going to get very few sacks other than the completely blown block where we get to the QB right after the snap.

Besides, we want DL who can run stop more than sack. See point 1 above.

I’m happy with a defense that can contain a QB AND STUFF THE RUN!
 

Mulligan

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Is it possible we were also keeping our defense pretty vanilla so far and could end up with more sacks as add some wrinkles?
That's what I've been telling myself. I certainly hope that's the case. Keeping it basic; sort of like the offense if you think about it. The play calling has been solid but he hasn't really needed to show anything. Get a lead, avoid turnovers, just grind them down.
 

MNVCGUY

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That's what I've been telling myself. I certainly hope that's the case. Keeping it basic; sort of like the offense if you think about it. The play calling has been solid but he hasn't really needed to show anything. Get a lead, avoid turnovers, just grind them down.
What I don't get about this issue is that we have people legit concerned in here about the lack of sacks. And yet our 2021 defense was near the bottom of the conference in sacks yet near the top of the Nation in terms of all the defensive categories that truly matter.

Our 2022 defense has been awesome through 3 games. Until we see the struggling against teams I just don't get wasting time worrying about sack totals.
 




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