Can Minnesota Stop the Skid Against Rutgers?
A home game against Rutgers seems like the perfect occasion for the Gophers to stop the bleeding. After a phenomenal start to the season, and a week in the Top 25, Minnesota has dropped three straight in disappointing fashion. A starting quarterback for the Gophers has yet to be confirmed, but since Tanner Morgan was healthy enough to be on the sidelines last week, we’re expecting him to play. Morgan suffered a concussion two weeks ago against Illinois and missed the Penn State game. While freshman Athan Kaliakmanis showed flashes of what made him a four-star recruit, the stout Nittany Lions’ defense feasted on his inexperience.
And speaking of defense, Minnesota badly needs a reset on that side of the ball as well. After trailing just 17-10 at halftime, Penn State found the end zone four times in the second half. In all, the Nittany Lions ran for two touchdowns; quarterback Sean Clifford added four passing. Clearly, the Penn State staff found things in the first half to exploit more in the second.
So how do the Gophers reverse their fortunes?
RUN THE BALL
This is probably easier said than done, seeing that Rutgers has the seventh-ranked run defense in the nation. But they haven’t faced Mohamed Ibrahim. Keep putting the ball in his hands, and if one play doesn’t work, keep trying until you find some that do. Get creative. Try some screen passes. Just get the ball in the hands of your best player.
The Gophers were penalized eight times for 52 yards against Penn State. They false-started three times on their first drive alone- yet, they still get the ninth-fewest penalty yards per game in FBS. That goes to show you what an anomaly this game was. They need to fix that, but we’re confident that they will.
Keep Targeting Brevyn Spann-Ford
Without wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell, the tight end Spann-Ford is stepping up in the passing game. At 6’7″, he has a huge catch radius, and at 270 pounds he’s nearly impossible to take down.
Force Rutgers to Pass
Minnesota has seven interceptions of opposing quarterbacks already. Rutgers’ Noah Vedral, a sixth-year senior, appears to be healthy after missing time early, then splitting reps with freshman Evan Simon. He played his first full game in the 14-13 win over Nebraska. Vedral threw eight interceptions in the shortened 2020 season, and seven a year ago. Our advice to Rutgers? Don’t throw toward Justin Walley.
On paper, this is a perfect game for the Gophers to get back on track and start salvaging their season. (Remember the Michigan State game? It seems so long ago). All they can do right now is try to go 1-0 each week. Can Minnesota stop the skid? We’ll find out this weekend.