Minnesota-Central Michigan grades: QB Mitch Leidner leads Gophers to win
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Golden Gophers’ 21-15 win against the Chippewas in the Quick Lane Bowl.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
A big reason behind Minnesota’s win was the nearly flawless performance of quarterback Mitch Leidner (+5.3). The quarterback was accurate on an astonishing 90% of his attempts; one of his three inaccurate passes was a very ill-advised interception, though. While Leidner was almost perfect within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage as he completed 20 of his 21 passes in this range, he was also effective downfield. Although he completed only one of his three passes 20 or more yards downfield, all three passes were accurate and while one was dropped another one was well-defended by Central Michigan’s secondary. As a result, he earned a grade of +3.0 on his deep pass attempts, which largely contributed to his overall grade.
The offensive line’s work was another key to the Golden Gophers’ victory as they surrendered only four total pressures. Although, two of these were sacks, four total pressures on 35 pass block snaps is still an extremely efficient performance from this unit. In addition, they were also a force in the run game, which is shown by the run block grades of right guard Joe Bjorklund (+1.6) and left guard Jon Christenson (+4.9).
The Minnesota defense did a decent job in limiting Central Michigan’s passing game as they allowed only 145 yards through the air and did not allow a single touchdown pass in this game. The fact that the Chippewas averaged 5.4 yards per attempt is another big compliment to the secondary. The unit was led by the performances of cornerbacks Eric Murray (+0.5) and Briean Boddy-Calhoun (-0.5). Murray allowed only two receptions and 10 yards on five targets, while Boddy-Calhoun surrendered five receptions and 77 yards on his 10 targets, however, he also recorded an interception. Murray and Boddy-Calhoun allowed an (NFL) passer rating of 47.9 and 36.3, respectively.
QB Mitch Leidner (+5.3)
LG Jon Christenson (+4.9)
RB Shannon Brooks (+2.7)
WR KJ Maye (+2.0)
DE Julian Huff (+1.8)
Central Michigan Chippewas
Despite what the numbers say, Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush (+2.2) was also having a nice game, which was ruined in the fourth quarter by probably the worst interception you will see this bowl season. Although, Rush completed only 48.4% of his passes, when you consider throwaways and dropped passes, he was accurate on 78.3% of his pass attempts, which suggests a much better performance. Since the quarterback was effective as a runner as well, the only facet of the game where he struggled was under pressure. On the plays when the Minnesota pass rush got to him he only completed 18.2% of his passes and averaged 3.4 yards per attempt. His lone interception also came on a play when he was under pressure as he tried to force a pass to wide receiver Anthony Rice while going to the ground.
Rush was not the only Central Michigan offensive player who had a decent game as freshman running back Romello Ross (+5.8) had a breakout game. Ross averaged 5.3 yards per carry; however, he was even more dangerous outside the tackles as he averaged 7.1 yards per attempt on these runs. In addition, it was almost impossible for the first defender to tackle Ross, who forced seven missed tackles on only 19 attempts.
While the Minnesota pass defense played well, this cannot be said about the Central Michigan defenders as four different players earned pass coverage grades below -1.0. Starting cornerback Amari Coleman (-2.7) and linebacker Nathan Ricketts (+0.8) struggled in coverage especially. While Coleman defended one pass, he allowed 39 yards, a touchdown and an (NFL) passer rating of 114.1 on the eight passes going his way. On the other hand, Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner completed all five of his passes for 46 yards when targeting Ricketts and he also had a passer rating of 105.0 in the process.
RB Romello Ross (+5.8)
SS Tony Annese (+3.2)
LT Ramadan Ahmeti (+3.0)
TE Ben McCord (+2.6)
QB Cooper Rush (+2.2)