HIBBING — When PJ Fleck took over the University of Minnesota, he came in with the saying, “Row the Boat.”

It was a great rallying cry to begin with as Fleck took a program that was somewhat relevant, but not nearly as relevant as it should have been.

Fleck turned it around last year as the Gophers had one of their best seasons in quite some time, making it to a bowl game on New Year’s Day.

Well, it looks like that boat has capsized or is at least sinking for now. I wish I could take credit for that one, but I saw it on Twitter.

I couldn’t agree more.

After losing to Michigan last week, which isn't an insult, Minnesota was supposed to go to Maryland on Friday and beat a struggling team that had been blown away by Northwestern 43-3.

Instead, the Terrapins won 45-44 in overtime because the Gophers’ defense must believe it’s against the rules to actually make some stops.

Maryland only punted once.

That defense gave up 17-unanswered points in the fourth quarter, otherwise it would have been an easy Gopher victory. That defense gave up 675 yards of total offense. That’s obscene.

If Fleck takes any flack, he deserves it. Last year, the bar was raised, especially with that win over Penn State, then beating Auburn in the Outback Bowl.

Yes, graduation hit the team hard on defense, but most of the top-ranked teams in the country are able to plug-in players and not miss a beat.

Evidently, the Gophers aren’t at that point as a program yet.

The offense is good. Scoring 44 points should be enough to win any football game, but Minnesota needed 46 points to win. The other problem, the Gophers didn’t score in that fourth quarter.

Mohamed Ibrahim rushed for 207 yards. He scored four times. That’s impressive. Chris Autman-Bell had 112 receiving yards and a touchdown. Rashod Bateman only picked up 62 yards, but I’m guessing he was double-teamed most of the game.

Tanner Morgan was efficient with 10 completions for 189 yards and one touchdown, so you can’t blame the offense. He only missed on five passes, but with the way the running game was going, he didn’t have to pass much.

This game is all on the defense, and, for Pete’s sake, special teams.

Fleck doesn’t have a placekicker.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t watch the game, but from what I’ve read, Fleck should have attempted a two-point conversion in overtime. His kicker missed the extra-point attempt in the extra session. Come on, it’s a 20-yard kick from the middle of the field.

It should be automatic, but that’s why they play the games.

For one reason or another, Fleck’s regular kicker is out for an undetermined cause. I don’t want to speculate and be wrong.

With that being the case, how come Fleck doesn’t have another competent kicker on his roster? Are kickers that hard to come by?

Supposedly, the schedule doesn’t get much tougher the rest of the way, but there are games with Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska, which are never easy. There’s games with Illinois, Northwestern and Purdue, which could go either way.

This was the game Minnesota needed to win.

If the Gophers win out, all will be forgiven, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Minnesota finished under .500 in the conference.

That would be a big step backward from last year.

We shouldn’t be surprised because it is a team from Minnesota.

That’s the stigma that Fleck wants to squash, but that loss says it all — typical Minnesota sports team.

Stay safe.


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