Jason’s Blog: It’s the QB, duh…
Posted By: Jason Iacovino
It was a pretty successful football weekend in Minnesota--something that has been rare in recent years.
The Golden Gophers were coming off a shoulder-shrug non-conference win over San Jose State, where backup quarterback Chris Streveler went 1-for-7 passing for 7 yards. Minnesota was a 12-point underdog at Michigan on Saturday, a team they've beat only once since 1986.
Final score: Minnesota 30, Michigan 14.
It wasn't that close, either. The Gophers dominated a second half which saw thousands of Wolverine fans at Michigan's "Big House" heading for the exits. The last time the Gophers won at Michigan Stadium was 2005, and they needed a long run by Gary Russell followed by a last-second field goal to capture the Little Brown Jug. This time, they could've had an equipment guy run over to retrieve the Jug late in the third quarter.
On Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings took on an Atlanta Falcons team that had 10 days to prepare following a 56-14 thumping of Tampa Bay in week three. During the week it was discovered that Minnesota's starting quarterback, Matt Cassell, would be out for several months with a fractured foot.
Final score: Vikings 41, Falcons 28.
So what gives? It isn't rocket science--it's the quarterback.
Mitch Leidner passed for 167 yards and a touchdown (A full 160 yard increase over what his backup did at home against a bad Mountain West school the previous week) for the Gophers. Teddy Bridgewater, making his first career NFL start, went 19-for-30 passing for 317 yards and also ran for 27 yards and a touchdown in Minnesota's victory over Atlanta.
There's a reason football fans spend so much energy agonizing over the quarterback position. It's not because they are too dumb or lazy to breakdown offensive line blocking schemes or whether or not receivers are running the proper routes--it's because the quarterback matters just that much.
Jets fans are crazy generally, but believe me, Rex Ryan is listening to their calls for Michael Vick. Green Bay looked like the 1980s Packers last year after Aaron Rodgers went out with an injury--yesterday they left a very good Chicago Bears team in the dust at Soldier Field thanks to Rodgers' brilliant play.
And why are the Colts and Chargers winning this year? Why are the Cowboys 3-1 despite a horrendous defense?
Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers, and Tony Romo. Simple as that.
We even saw the impact at the high school level on Saturday. Blooming Prairie and Bethlehem Academy are fairly evenly matched up and down the roster except for one position--and you know which one it is.
While B.A. experimented with Christian Von Ruden in the Wildcat as their starting quarterback Kollin Hanson missed the game with an injury, BP's quarterback John Rumpza was 29-for-34 for 367 yards in the air and three touchdowns. Credit the Cardinals for keeping the game close at halftime as they always seem to have a defensive plan to slow BP's high-powered offense, but in the end, it was too much Rumpza and Jake Decker (Who accounted for all 6 of BP's touchdowns).
Even Owatonna benefited from improved quarterback play in their 42-14 win over Austin on Friday as Alex Emmanuelson threw for over 150 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Packers would likely have kept that game a lot closer had the Huskies not mixed in the passing game with their power runs.
Much of the celebration over the weekend has centered on the Gophers, and for good reason--you don't apologize for winning a game at Michigan even if the Wolverines are a mess at the moment. Unfortunately, of all the teams cited above, the Gophers have the most suspect quarterback situation. Leidner is a dual-threat guy, but he doesn't have the type of passing game that can single-handedly breakdown a defense. Minnesota has a manageable schedule after their bye, so they may be able to win games without big passing plays, but that won't be the case later in the year when they face the likes of Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Nebraska.
As for the Vikings, Bridgewater looks like the real deal. It's too bad that Minnesota has a short turnaround when they face Green Bay on the road Thursday night because Teddy did sprain his ankle late in the Atlanta game. I would expect Teddy to play against the Packers, but Lambeau Field can be tough enough for a rookie even at 100 percent.
But beggars can't be choosers. We've been yearning for good quarterback play--both on Saturdays and Sundays--in Minnesota for quite some time. If last weekend was any indication, we could be in for a fun football season in 2014.
Jason Iacovino can be heard Tuesdays and Fridays on KRFO-AM 1390 at 3:50 p.m. Leave a comment below and follow him on Twitter @JasonIacovino.