Get to Know: Minnesota

They may have looked like one of the hottest teams in America in their win against Michigan State, but things are about to get really cold for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Right now the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts a high temperature of 26 degrees in Minneapolis Saturday.

If gray skies and breaths that are are visible speak to traditional football, then this weekend’s opponent is appropriate.

Minnesota has run the ball about 72 percent of the time this season. Running back David Cobb is 18th nationally in all-purpose yards and 8th in rushing yards, grinding out those yards at an average of 5.3 per carry for a total of 1,205.

Minnesota’s leading receiver is a tight end, Maxx Williams. They have a 6’9″, 320 pound offensive lineman in right tackle Jonah Pirsig. In fact, the starting line they used in their 51-14 win against Iowa averaged 6’5″ and 312 pounds. Heck, Minnesota uses a fullback. They moved Tyler Hartmann from the defensive line to his current spot before spring ball in 2013.

Leading this old-school offense is quarterback Mitch Leidner, who has already battled through a sprained knee and toe injury this year. He only has 10 touchdown passes to 6 interceptions, but he’s coming off one of his most accurate performances of the season (10/13 for 138 yards and 4 TDs vs. the Hawkeyes).

Also, like many quarterbacks who rely on the play-action pass, when he does complete it, he can really gouge a defense. He’s sixth nationally in yards/completion (15.12). And he’s his team’s second-leading rusher with 69 carries, quite a few of which came off the zone read. Most importantly for the Gophers, he wins games. He’s 9-3 as a starter.

Defensively, Minnesota runs a 4-3. They are 24th nationally in points allowed and 21st in total defense.

They have forced 22 turnovers this year, which ranks them 12th in that category, but they don’t get into opposing backfields a whole lot and are ranked 51st in tackles for loss.

The Gophers leading tackler overall is linebacker Damien Wilson, who also leads the club in TFLs with 8.0. Cameron Botticelli has added 7.5 tackles for loss, and is tops on the team with 3 sacks.

Minnesota also has one of the league’s more impressive defensive backs, Briean Boddy-Calhoun, who by the way, is running back David Cobb’s cousin. Boddy-Calhoun has three interceptions and six pass breakups. Jalen Myrick has been effective, too, with a pick and 6 pass breakups of his own. They’re a big reason the Gophers are 15th in the country in pass efficiency defense.

From a special teams standpoint, it’s notable that Myrick and fellow defensive back Marcus Jones have combined to make Minnesota 21st nationally in kick return average. Meanwhile, the Gophers kicker Ryan Santoso is only 9/13. However, he did make a 52-yarder this season.

Minnesota is 4-1 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1990. If they make it to 5-1, the team will really have given head coach Jerry Kill reason to dance.


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