Unsure of how to replace David Cobb, the duo of freshmen Rodney Smith (467 yards, 4.1 average) and Shannon Brooks (321, 7.0) have done a good job . . . Peter Mortell is averaging 44 yards per punt and has dropped 18 inside the 20 . . . Ryan Santoso is 10 of 13 on field-goal tries and has 14 touchbacks on 30 kickoffs . . . Jalen Myrick has three interceptions, three passes broken up and six passes defensed . . . scoring 41 points at Purdue a week after being shut out.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY SportsBrian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports
What's gone wrong
Mitch Leidner continues to be maddeningly inconsistent . . . talented redshirt freshman Jeff Jones can't get on the field due to injuries . . . K.J. Maye is the team's best receiver, but has just 350 yards as Minnesota can't get a deep threat going . . . Injuries have hampered the defense as Cody Poock and Briean Boddy-Calhoun, among others, have missed time . . . allowing 48 points to Nebraska.
Having won three straight games, feeling pretty good and eyeing a spot in the top 25, Minnesota put on a clunker at No. 16 Northwestern, losing 27-0. The Gophers' offense could do nothing, gaining just 173 yards of offense while the Wildcats ran for 184 and completed 14 of 19 passes.
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY SportsJerry Lai/USA TODAY Sports
Coming off a close loss to highly ranked TCU, Minnesota went on the road and pulled out an overtime win over Colorado State. The Gophers never got down despite allowing a game-tying field goal as time expired (which came shortly after Minnesota took the lead with 55 seconds left) and forced a fumble in overtime to help set up the win.
David Zalubowski/Associated PresDavid Zalubowski/Associated Pres
Staying up late
Minnesota's next three games -- at home against Michigan, at Ohio State and at Iowa -- are all at night. The two road games are 7 p.m. kickoffs while the one at TCF Bank Stadium is at 6 p.m. The Gophers haven't played a Big Ten game at night since Oct. 30, 2010 vs. Ohio State. On the road, Minnesota hasn't played a Big Ten game that started in the evening since Sept. 28, 2002 at Purdue -- and that kickoff was at 5 p.m.
Minnesota is 4-3, meaning the Gophers just need two more wins to be bowl eligible. However, that is easier than it sounds. With remaining games against Michigan (5-2), Ohio State (7-0), Iowa (7-0), Illinois (4-2) and Wisconsin (5-2), it might be nail-biting time as the season winds down.