Fleck looking for improvement from struggling defense

The Gophers football team is off to an 0-2 start with a defense that has struggled in a big way.

In a 45-44 overtime loss at Maryland on Friday, Minnesota allowed 675 yards to a team that had only scored three points in the previous week.

"The simple thing is we just have to keep getting better," Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck said on Monday. "That is the number one message we continue to tell our football team. Whoever is on the field, whoever gets an opportunity to play benefits. The only way they’re going to get better is if they go out and play. We’re not going to sit here and protect them. They got to go out and play."

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A depleted kicking game due to players missing games due to COVID-19 has put the defense in some tough spots in the first two weeks of the season, but poor tackling and alignment has been their downfall. Offense is up around the country due to teams not getting in their normal non-conference games.

"Look around the country and look at the amount of points that are being put up. It’s a unique year. And if you have a veteran defense, you’re probably going to benefit," Fleck added. "We have an inexperienced defense that we have to get better. And we have to just continue to get better, but if you look back even last year, I think our defense got better and better and better as we went and I don’t expect any difference of us getting better."

The Gophers visit Illinois on Saturday. The Fighting Illini are also 0-2 this season with losses to Wisconsin and Purdue.