Asked why the Wildcats ditched the run against Wisconsin last Saturday, Treyvon Green hesitates for a moment.
“I honestly don’t know,” he finally said.
He’s not alone. Those following Northwestern were baffled that even after losing Venric Mark to an ankle injury, the Cats shied away from using any of their four rushers averaging more than 4.5 yards per carry this season. The Wildcats stumbled to just 44 yards on 25 carries in the 35-6 loss.
“We have to improve, improve from last week definitely,” Green told PurpleWildcats.com. “Just pound the ball. We obviously didn’t get many carries last week. This game, if we do get our carries, we have to take advantage of it.”
Northwestern failed to find holes against Wisconsin’s physical front seven, which ranks among the best in the country in run defense. Against Minnesota, the script doesn’t read all that differently. The Golden Gophers have allowed less than four yards per carry and field one of the best red-zone defenses in the country.
“They’re a 4-3 attack style defense, meaning they’re going to play a lot of man,” Pat Fitzgerald said. “Those guys are going to attack up front, their linebackers are fast. They try to make you play a little bit left-handed. I’m very impressed with their speed and their toughness.”
Green praised the Gophers’ interior linemen, which include stud nose tackle and pro prospect Ra’Shede Hageman. At 6-6 and 310 pounds, Hageman poses a problem for an offensive line that struggled in recent games.
None of that matters to Green, who spent most of Saturday on the sidelines and saw just three touches despite entering the game with a 7.0 yard-per-carry average.
“For me, personally, I have to work on my punch,” Green says about pass blocking. “Last week I gave up a sack because I didn’t punch, I didn’t use my hands. That’s one thing we’re all trying to get better at this week.”
Green was active in practice Wednesday, though most of the scrimmage sets worked on red-zone passing situations. It was still a high-energy morning, refreshing for a team that looked one-dimensional and uninspired in Madison.
Green admitted that the uncertainty surrounding Mark can be stressful. But that doesn’t change his expectations for Saturday.
“I’m preparing myself to get a lot of carries, and for us to run the ball a lot,” he says.
Green’s modesty isn’t lip service, but he’ll need to be more involved Saturday if the ‘Cats want to turn things around.
Mark or not, Northwestern can’t spread the field and set a tempo without their running game. After Green looked so sharp in each of the Wildcats’ wins, the fact that he’s prepared for a healthy dose of carries is just about the best thing fans can hear—for now.