San Jose State travels to take on Minnesota this Saturday in hopes of getting revenge after losing last year to the Golden Gophers. To get to know the 2014 version of Minnesota we reached out to The Daily Gopher to answer some key questions.
Q. Last year, Minnesota ran at will over San Jose State with 353 yards on the ground. What is the Gophers rushing game looking like this year and is there a confidence boost over last year's result?
A. The rushing game is essentially the same as it was a year ago. Majority of offensive line returned and a couple younger players have added strength/experience to give the OL more depth. The running backs remain the same and added a new dimension with the speedy Berkley Edwards (brother of Braylon Edwards). 353 is a LOT of rushing yardage in a game, I don't expect to see those kind of numbers again but this is the identity of the Gopher offense and they will run the ball an awful lot on Saturday.
Q. Quarterback Mitch Leidner struggled against TCU last week with three interceptions and completing less than 50 percent of his passes. Was that mostly due to the TCU defense and what kind of bounce back game is expected against San Jose State?
A. It was partially due to a very good TCU defense, it was partially due to Leidner not being fully healthy, but it was mostly due to the fact that he just is not a very good passing quarterback. I don't expect a bounce back game, to be honest. I don't expect to see 3 picks, a fumble and completion percentage that low. But I also am not anticipating that he'll win the game with his arm. San Jose State's defense is not going to offer the same challenges as TCU's did, most Big Ten defenses we face won't be that good. So I expect he'll have some success and hopefully far fewer mistakes. But that is what will define "bounce back" for Mitch Leidner.
Q. What type of defense will Minnesota utilize, especially in the secondary since San Jose State has a very good receiver in Tyler Winston?
A. The Gopher defense, particularly the secondary is rather good. Expect to see #31, Eric Murray on Winston for most of the game and Murray has a reputation for making the day very difficult for the other team's receivers. Coach Kill talked all week leading up to the TCU game how fast their receivers are and how he was confident that our secondary could match their speed. In the end TCU threw for 258 yards but it took 27 completions for just a 5.6 yd average. I have confidence in the Gopher secondary.
Q. What is an area on this team that is a weakness where San Jose State might have an advantage?
A. Well the Gopher passing game is the glaring and obvious weakness. That incorporates not only our difficulty completing passes but also our offensive line's inability to protect the quarterback. I am not nearly familiar enough with San Jose State to know if their pass rush or their secondary is a strength or if they will be able to take advantage of our inability to pass. If they can figure out a way to stop the run and put the Gophers into long third downs, then maybe they'll have some opportunities at turnovers or sacks.
Q. How do you think this game will play out, and what is your prediction?
Ultimately, I do not think San Jose State will be able to stop the run. The Gophers will control the clock, move the chains and win this game by more than two scores. I hesitate to compare the Gophers to Auburn, but there are some similarities in their desire to have a rushing mentality and identity. The Spartans nearly gave up 100 yards to three different rushers in their Auburn loss. The Gopher should have no trouble on the ground, thus staying out of dangerous passing situations. I expect San Jose State will move the ball a little bit, but it won't be enough.