1. The 2004 Gophers under Glen Mason [UM
Photo right] are ranked #19
2. They have an outstanding rushing game with Big 10 Player of
the week Marion Barber III averaging 6.8 yards per carry [428
on 63 and 6 TDs] complimented by Laurence Maroney's 7.8 ypc [381
on 49 and 3 TDs]
3. The Passing game isn't all that shabby on paper - Soph QB
#3 Bryan Cupito [UM Photo left]
is 32 of 55 for 627 yards and 5 TDs, but nobody talks about their passing.
4. Their Defense gives up 19 points a game, averaging 436.7 yards
per game, 109.3 rushing, 327.3 passing.
Match that up with a 2 game winning streak over the Cats and NU's leaky defense [we average 435.3 yards per game] and you can see why the Gophers might be licking their chops.
But not so fast -- The Cats only allow 114.3 yards per game on the ground -- Big Luis Castillo, who's elbow seems to be healing and the Tim McGarigle/Nick Roach tandem seem to have coralled those runners in the first 3 games. NU's Coach Randy Walker allows for great runners like the Minny tandem, breaking one or two, but he still
thinks the NU banged up defense has a shot at slowing down the running game of Minny.
As for the last in the conference, also suspect Gopher D?
Well I think by and large defenses in the Big 10 are very strong, you just don't find many weaknesses there. They have linemen who can put pressure on people, they have linebackers who can attack and play an assertive style of football but who also can defend against the pass, and then you have people on the back half who can cover. [like senior safety Justin Fraley - UM Photo
Walker also noted that the Gopher D bends, but not always breaks...
You know as we prepare for our first Big 10 game, Minnesota is typical Big 10, they have a number of very good defensive football players who are really going to make it difficult for you [Randy
Waker on the Big 10 Teleconference]
Defensively they've given up some yards, but they haven't given up a lot of points [to the AP]
So Maybe it comes down to the quarterbacks?
Mason has a lot of respect for NU's QB, Brett Basanez
"I hope we put a great pass rush on him, but I'm going to tell you, he gets rid of the ball fast," Gophers coach Glen Mason said. "A lot of the stuff they do is out of the shotgun, with short passes and multiple receivers, and they get it going."
He's also noted that you don't stop the NU passing offense, you just slow it, but he warned the media last week that he knows the Cats will run the ball too. They faced the same kind of attack last week and eventually shut down the Colorado State running game. He says he hangs his defensive hat on stopping the run.
But adding to the Gopher woes is that Minny's Bryan Cupito got crunched last week - he suffered a head injury that nobody in Minnesota will discuss. Put a big rush on the Soph QB and he might just start to play defensively to keep from getting hit, but remember that Minnesota also has a giant
sized O-Line. This one will probably be won down in the trenches.
Putting the NU offense into the Mason - Gopher perspective:
It just so happens that they throw the ball more or they want to throw it more just to keep you a little more off balance. If they get their run game going, then we’re in trouble. We have to stop the running game and that’s always the number one focus around here. [Glen
Mason Press Conference 9/20]
So here's the goal -- keep Barber [UM Photo right] and Maroney under 100 yards each, and get NU's tandem of Noah Herron and Terrell Jordan over 100 yards each and let the QBs settle the issue. I'll take Basanez over Cupito in that standoff.
Randy Walker has laid it out for the Wildcats...
I think we're ready to go into a very demanding league schedule.
As we all know, we're getting ready to play team who is playing very well right now.
It sure looks like it.
Minnesota, after coming off a great season last year, is back at it. They have 3 very convincing wins. They do all things good football
teams do in every aspect of the game so going into this game we know we're going to have to play our best football, kick it up a couple of knotches...its going to be a demanding thing.
The Game is on TV - ESPN2 at 8 PM WT [Wildcat Time] and will also be on WGN [and WNUR].
We'll be chatting at the same spot