MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - After a season-opening win against the Buffalo Bulls, head coach P.J. Fleck and the Minnesota Gophers are riding high into their first real test of the season--an away game at Oregon State. With the game's start time--and even location--in jeopardy because of problems with air quality due to smoke from wildfires in the area, Fleck says his only priority is to focus on the game and not worry about any outside factors.
The Fox 9 crew sat down with Fleck to talk about the team's gameday routine, continuing to play with two quarterbacks and all things Gopher football.
ON DEFENSIVE PLAY AGAINST BUFFALO
"I love the way our defense played. We have a lot of guys who haven't started a ton of football. They've played some, but I think we have three returning starters on the defensive side.
"I love how they responded. [Buffalo] would hit a big play, and we'd come back and respond. That's what our culture is all about. There's going to be passes thrown against us, there's going to be touchdowns scored on us and we've got to be able to respond ... I think they let like, 62 yards in the second half. That's outstanding defense."
ON WHERE HIS TEAM NEEDS TO IMPROVE
"We had to be able to win better on first and second down. How you know we can do that is if there were a lot of 3rd and 5's, 3rd and 4's, we're not doing a good enough job on first and second down. If there's a lot of 3rd and 1's, those are the best for coaches. We didn't have many of those.
ON KICKER EMMIT CARPENTER'S PLAY SATURDAY
"Since he only missed two [field goals] I guess he's done for the year [after missing two Saturday], so he better be perfect going forward. I will say though, the first kick of the year--I didn't necessarily make it easy on him. It was 51 yards into the wind. I'm sure maybe he would have liked maybe a 25 yarder to start the year, with the wind at his back, but you saw what type of young man he is. He's incredibly smart and gifted, but he's incredibly strong-minded as well, and very mentally tough.
"So when we had the 4th and 1--it's 14-7--if he doesn't hit [the field goal] all of a sudden it's a one-possession game and all the momentum swings to them. I have all the confidence in the world, obviously when you don't go for 4th and 1 you send your kicker out there for a 47-yarder and you believe in him. He's one of the best kickers in the country, and obviously he's going to miss some--he's not perfect--but I love the way he responded.
ON PLAYING WITH TWO QUARTERBACKS
"I really liked how they managed the game. If you would have shown me their stat lines before the game I would have said 'I'll take those stat lines.' Maybe that interception I might have kept off. But it showed they were able to manage the game and do what we needed them to do ...
"We've got to continue to up the level of play at quarterback, and sooner or later one of those guys has got to take the reins. Right now, it's still even, but sooner or later I want to play with one quarterback and prepare with one quarterback. That decision can either be easy for me, or a lot harder for me."