P.J. Fleck saw it coming, but Iowa’s execution on a fake field goal in Saturday’s game was too much for Minnesota to handle.
"It was a muddle formation, something we work on every week, but we just didn’t set the edge," the Golden Gophers coach said Tuesday on the weekly Big Ten teleconference.
The play, which resulted in a 4-yard touchdown run for tight end T.J. Hockenson, came out of a swinging gate formation designed to get the defense out of alignment before the snap.
Fleck said his players were prepared for the look in practice and were in the right spots.
What Minnesota was unable to accomplish was dealing with a key block delivered by Sam Brincks.
That allowed Hockenson to slip around the right side and into the end zone for the score, which extended Iowa's lead to 21-7.
"You think about two things when teams go to muddle. If your team is all out of whack, you call a timeout. If not, you let it go and let them do what they do in practice every single Thursday and Friday," Fleck said.
"We practice getting it covered, and if you do that, they come away with zero. We just didn’t set the edge well, and it was a well-executed play by them. We didn’t set the edge well enough against a great call that they executed."
Freshman moves: Illinois’ Jartavius Martin shares the Big Ten lead in interceptions with teammate Del’Shawn Phillips, both picking off three passes this year.
Phillips was a known performer for the Illini entering the season, but Martin’s emergence as a true freshman has impressed coach Lovie Smith.
"Three interceptions in five games, that’s a good start to a career," Smith said.
The 6-foot, 190-pound native of Lehigh Acres, Florida, arrived at Illinois labeled simply as a defensive back after playing safety in high school.
"No matter where a player lines up in high school, we like to see what he can do," Smith said. "We knew he was very athletic, had good size, and from day one, he showed good hands, had a good skill set. We’re very pleased with how he is competing."
A total challenge: As much as he likes what transfer Shea Patterson is doing at the controls of the Michigan offense, the next challenge on Wisconsin’s schedule is what coach Paul Chryst labels a total challenge for the Badgers.
"He’s a talented quarterback, but the thing is they have great guys around him, too," said Chryst, whose team visits the Wolverines at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.
"He’s effective because he’s working behind a good line and they have a good back and other talented skill players. Patterson is playing well, but the key is all 11 of them are playing well together."
Michigan averages 38.2 points per game, an effort complemented by a defense that is giving up a league-low 15.8 points per game.
Homecoming weekend: On homecoming weekend at Illinois, it will be a homecoming as well for Purdue coach Jeff Brohm.
He worked in the 2011-12 seasons as the Fighting Illini quarterbacks coach, coaching current Iowa State assistant Nathan Scheelhaase.
"I’m looking forward to getting back to Champaign," Brohm said. "I really enjoyed my time there. Working with Nathan, it was a good opportunity for me, and I really enjoyed the experience I had on the staff there."
Brohm said he isn’t necessarily looking forward to facing an Illinois team that in five games has already passed its rushing total for the entire 2017 season.
"Lovie’s team is playing well right now — they’ve led in the second half of every game they’ve played — and this will be a challenge for us," Brohm said.
Personal responsibility: Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald is not necessarily a fan of the shiny bells and whistles some programs are using to catch the attention of recruits.
"I’d prefer to build a genuine relationship with the player, build something that really matters," Fitzgerald said.
That approach, which Fitzgerald admits may be a bit old school, extends to the players who ultimately select the Wildcats.
"I don’t text my guys at 5:30 in the morning reminding them to be here for a meeting at 7," Fitzgerald said. "We tell them when the meeting is, and we expect them to be here."
Nearing a return: Fleck said running back Shannon Brooks is inching closer to a return to action.
Sidelined since the spring and returning more quickly than initially expected, the Golden Gophers plan to play Brooks in up to four games this fall and preserve a redshirt year, which would allow him to play a full senior season in 2019.
"He’s been practicing and is chomping at the bit to get back out there, but we want to make sure he is 100 percent," Fleck said. "He’s getting closer, but he’s not there yet."