Minnesota vs. UNLV: Quick Observations at the Half
The Minnesota Gophers take on the UNLV Runnin' Rebels on the opening day of the 2012 college football season. Both teams will be leaps and bounds ahead of their performance from last year as the Gophers won three games and the Rebels won two. With a halftime score of 7-3, both offenses look a bit sloppy on both sides of the ball.
The Rebels are sporting new uniforms in this game that look great and sleek, but at the same time are easy enough on the eyes to give them a classic look.
Minnesota came in as 12-point favorites, but UNLV jumped out to an early lead after a Minnesota turnover. For a team that is coming off of a two-win season, the Rebels look motivated against the Big Ten's bottom-dweller Minnesota.
James Gillum scored the first touchdown of the season for the Gophers on a 16-yard rush. This was set up by a 39-yard connection through the air from MarQueis Gray to A.J. Barker. This was the first drive that Minnesota looked like the clearly superior team.
Here are a few quick observations from the first-half of the Minnesota-UNLV football game.
1. MarQueis Gray Has Improved His Passing Game
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MarQueis Gray's running ability hasn't been questioned in his years at Minnesota, it's something that has come completely natural to him. His feet have been the only bright spot in Minnesota over the past two years in which Minnesota has won a total of five games.
In this season opener though, his arm has looked much stronger and much more accurate on mid-range throws. Although his stat-sheet may show his interception, there wasn't much he could have done after a lucky tip by a linebacker.
His 39-yard connection with A.J. Barker was a good throw with a good move by Barker. Throws like these will be critical to the success of Gray. The offensive line of Minnesota also looks much improved which will help Gray's passing numbers a lot this season.
His decision making isn't as improved as head coach Jerry Kill would like to see, but it will definitely get better as the season goes on.
2. The Minnesota Defensive Line Needs to Be Better Against the Run
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The Minnesota defensive line looked pitiful against the run in the opening drive against UNLV. A team from the Big Ten has no excuse to be pushed back across the board by a team from the Mountain West. This has extended into the second quarter as well, not as badly as before, but inexcusable still.
On run plays, the UNLV line is just getting the initial push off the ball they need to allow Tim Cornett and Bradley Randle the room they need to work with.
Ra'Shede Hageman looked the best of anyone with a sack to end the first quarter and some other pressure on passing plays. But multiple times Hageman was driven straight back on a run play. They have rushed UNLV into a few hurries and looked better in the second.
Looking beyond this game, the Big Ten has some of the best offensive line's in the nation and if Minnesota wants to get out of the basement this year they'll have to show some urgency in the trenches.
3. UNLV May Be One of the Most Improved Teams in the Nation
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Bobby Hauck had two wins in each of his first two seasons. With players committed to the program, new jerseys and general excitement, the Runnin' Rebels are looking to improve their standing in the Mountain West Conference.
Last season, they often looked disorganized and confused, but they came out strong against a Big Ten opponent. After an early turnover created by the defense, UNLV advanced the ball close enough for kicker Nolan Kohorst to put a 39-yard field goal through the uprights.
Their strong point will be the running game this season and the strength that their offensive line provides. Quick, explosive plays seem to be their strong suit, but they'll need to keep going to those plays for a chance against the Golden Gophers.
The offense has looked good on individual plays but hasn't put together any more scoring drives. However, both sides of the ball look much better than 2011.
Final Thoughts: What Each Team Needs to Do in the Second Half
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Minnesota needs to put together a string of plays that will allow them to take control of the game. They have had their moments where they look good, but then they have a bad play or two that stalls the drive. If they can put together a drive like the quick score they had in the middle of the second quarter, this game should end with Minnesota by two or three touchdowns.
UNLV is going to have to be better through the air and be able to play from behind if they want to have a chance in this game. The only way a win is possible for the Rebels is if they can force two more turnovers and convert them to touchdowns.
Final Score Prediction: