1. The offense needs to step it up
Through three games, the Gophers have scored four touchdowns and seven field goals. They found out Saturday that won't work against a good opponent on the road. The biggest culprit for the Gophers was their 3-for-12 third-down performance, which included two fourth-quarter possessions that were stopped by an incomplete pass and a sack. Quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis was 2-for-7 on third-down passes and was sacked once on third down. "There were times he handled it really well and times he didn't handle it really well,'' Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. "And I told him the same thing on the sideline. It's about him maturing and growing as a leader.''
2. Darius Taylor was impressive again
True freshman running back Darius Taylor followed his 193-yard effort against Eastern Michigan by rushing 22 times for 138 yards and the Gophers' only touchdown on a 2-yard run late in the second quarter. He became the first Gophers true freshman to rush for 100 yards or more in consecutive games since Laurence Maroney in 2003. "Darius played extremely well,'' Kaliakmanis said. "Everything was there once again, and I just came up short.''
3. The tackling needs to improve quickly
Too often Saturday, North Carolina got loose for big gains as Drake Maye passed for 414 yards. Coverage was part of the issue, and tackling was another for the Gophers, who missed Cody Lindenberg. Minnesota's top linebacker missed his third consecutive game because of an injury suffered during the week leading up to the opener against Nebraska. "Our tackling I thought was poor at times, but again they have big backs, and I thought we did for the most part a good job in hitting them pretty low,'' Fleck said.
4. You'll see more of Greg Johnson
Gophers guard Greg Johnson entered the game in the second quarter and became the team's first true freshman offensive lineman to play with the starting unit since Daniel Faalele started the final eight games in 2018. Expect to see the former Prior Lake standout play more as the season progresses. "He played well enough in practice for us to put him in there,'' Fleck said. "And he's going to be a very, very special player here in Minnesota.''
5. Big Ten goes 0-2 in the Triangle
The Gophers weren't the only Big Ten team to lose during a trip to North Carolina's Research Triangle area. While Minnesota and North Carolina battled in Chapel Hill, No. 21 Duke routed Northwestern 38-14 in Durham. The Blue Devils rolled to 487 yards of offense and led the Wildcats 38-7 before Northwestern scored with 1:27 to play. The Gophers and Wildcats meet Saturday night in Evanston.