No. 7 Gophers making major strides in Ciarrocca’s offense

Published 2:08 am Thursday, November 14, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS — With no game on the schedule the week before Minnesota played Penn State, most of the Gophers coaches hit the road for recruiting.

Kirk Ciarrocca hung back and crafted the game plan to beat a Nittany Lions defense that entered with the second-fewest points allowed in the FBS.

“Kirk loves to be by himself. He got more work done than anybody in the entire building,” coach P.J. Fleck said after the 31-26 victory on Saturday, adding: “He loves sitting in his hole, watching film, and it showed.”

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The Gophers ran the ball 40 times and attempted 20 passes, averaging a robust 7.7 yards per play. They had 24 points in the first half, more than the Nittany Lions had allowed in any of their previous eight games, taking only two sacks for 10 yards and producing just one turnover, a fumble near midfield.

“The kids played great. It always comes down to them,” said Ciarrocca, who was announced Wednesday as one of 41 nominees for the Broyles Award, given annually to an outstanding assistant coach in the FBS.

Fleck has given Ciarrocca full responsibility for the play calling, so he can focus on game management and other responsibilities of being the head coach.