There's something about mediocre Big Ten bowl opponents that bring out the worst in the Red Raiders. If Tech is heavily favored over an underpowered Minnesota, Michigan State or Northwestern, you can be sure the Red Raiders will make the game far more interesting than it ought to be. That was certainly the case down in Houston where Tech's defense made the anemic gophers look like vintage Tom Osborne Cornhuskers and the offense went somnolent long enough to put Red Raider heads in the noose.
Still, it was a win. Ask the Red Raiders if they'd like to swap places with the Golden Gophers about now.
Quarterbacks: Seth Doege made some good plays and he made some bad ones, but when the chips were down, he came through and led Tech to victory. The touchdown scramble late in the second quarter was the best run of Doege's career. He was decisive, made one great move, and finished with heart and effort. The two picks in the second half were nearly fatal. The slant to Eric Ward for the tying points was Doege at his best. Micheal Brewer's touchdown pass to Derek Edwards was perfect and impressive considering he came in cold.
Running Backs: Kenny Williams and Eric Stephens were sharp, quick and fast. They couldn't have played much better, and should have gotten more opportunities to run the rock.
Receivers: This was not a scintillating performance by the wideouts. Eric Ward struggled at times against Michael Carter, but his game-tying touchdown reception was the highlight of the game for this group. Darrin Moore had a very quiet 11-catch game. Tyson Williams had six receptions, but dropped a touchdown pass and committed a touchdown-nullifying holding penalty. Jace Amaro's return from injury was inauspicious. He dropped one pass, and committed a critical personal foul violation that got him ejected from the game. The key to Amaro's future is psychological maturation.
Offensive Line: The line played one of its better games of the season. Beau Carpenter's personal foul gave Minnesota the field position to score a touchdown, LaAdrian Waddle had a silly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and Deveric Gallington surrendered one sack, but otherwise it was lights out. Carpenter was a mauler in the run game, and both tackles blocked very will in general. The Gophers blitzed a great deal but rarely bothered Doege.
Defensive Line: The line was tough against the pass but had no answer for Minnesota's run blocking. Specifically, the Gophers couldn't handle Dartwan Bush, Dennell Wesley, and Kerry Hyder when their quarterbacks dropped to pass, but few of Tech's linemen managed to hang in on running plays. Additionally, Tech's ends missed far too many tackles in the backfield. Philip Daniels and MarQueis Gray are nobody's Johnny Manzeil and Robert Griffin, and Tech can thank God for that.
Linebackers: Tech's linebackers didn't make a single play in the backfield or a single play in the passing game. What's more, most of their tackles came well downfield. We saw little block-shedding from this group. Micah Awe got by far his most extensive playing time of the season and finished with four tackles.
Secondary: Outside of D. J. Johnson's monster interception, it was a terrible night for the secondary. The Minnesota passing attack—if one can call it that—is abysmal, yet Gopher receivers ran free through the secondary for most of the game. The Red Raiders can be thankful that Minnesota's quarterbacks are about as accurate as Mr. Magoo. Why the secondary was so disorganized is somewhat of a mystery. As is Derrick Mays' extensive presence and Bruce Jones' relative absence.
Special Teams: Jakeem Grant certainly has the wow factor, doesn't he? As soon as he learns to take what the coverage gives him, he will be a very special return man. Austin Zouzalik had a great punt return nullified by an illegal block. Ryan Bustin did not choke when confronted by a game-winning kick situation. Ryan Erxleben's punts were subpar and so were Kramer Fyfe's kickoffs.