Minnesota squeaked by Oregon State with a 30-23 win Sept. 1. Their matchup against FCS opponent Indiana State should go a lot smoother. A full breakdown, prediction, and other notes can be found below:
When Minnesota runs the ball:
This is what Minnesota did best against Oregon State, and they will likely be even more successful against Indiana State. The Sycamores allowed an average of 172.2 yards on the ground last year, which was in the middle of the FCS. Indiana State surrendered 145 yards and four touchdowns on the ground to Butler — an FCS team whose rushing offense is not its strong suit — in its 2016 season opener.
Running back Rodney Smith and quarterback Mitch Leidner combined for 201 yards and four touchdowns against Oregon State. The Gophers are without sophomore running back Shannon Brooks for Saturday, but Smith and Leidner will still undoubtedly have a great game on the ground.
Matchup to watch: RB Rodney Smith vs. LB Antonio Broadus
When Indiana State runs the ball:
Indiana State averaged 88.6 rushing yards a game last year, sixth-to-worst in the FCS, but did rush for 124 yards against Butler with two touchdowns. Still, the Gophers rushing defense should have no problem handling the Sycamores. Minnesota held Oregon State to 89 rushing yards in the opener, and fielded an average rushing defense last year. Gophers redshirt senior linebacker Nick Rallis — a talented defender against the run — will miss the game due to a left arm injury, but that shouldn’t make too big of a difference against Indiana State’s running game, led by redshirt senior Roland Genesy and redshirt junior Dimitri Taylor. Minnesota has most of its defense healthy, and Indiana State’s running backs will have a hard time getting over 100 yards or scoring touchdowns.
Matchup to watch: RB Roland Genesy vs. LB Cody Poock
When Minnesota passes the ball:
Leinder and his receivers didn’t have the easiest game against Oregon State. The quarterback finished with only 130 yards and didn’t throw a touchdown for the first time in eight games, so this matchup could be worrisome for the Gophers if Leidner doesn’t improve. Indiana State’s passing defense was respectable in the FCS last year, but struggled against their lone power-five opponent, Purdue, allowing 52 yards above the Boilermakers’ season average.
The Sycamores’ backfield, led by safety Tsali Lough, is made up of almost all seniors and may grab an interception from Leidner, but their impact won’t be significant enough to really limit him and affect the game.
Matchup to watch: WR Eric Carter vs. CB Lonnell Brown Jr.
When Indiana State passes the ball:
Indiana State quarterback Isaac Harker had a good game against Butler, throwing for 315 yards and two touchdowns. But Butler’s secondary isn’t Minnesota’s — Butler had the second to worst passing defense in the FCS, finishing only ahead of Princeton last season. Minnesota lost two key players in their elite secondary last year with Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun going to the NFL, and they struggled at times against Oregon State as the Beavers’ quarterback had 228 yards with three touchdowns.
This should still be a very lopsided matchup for Minnesota. Harker is inexperienced, and the redshirt sophomore may very well have a bright future ahead of him, but it won’t start in this game.
Matchup to watch: WR Robert Tonyan Jr. vs. CB KiAnte Hardin
Minnesota 34, Indiana State 10.
Indiana State may score a touchdown and force a turnover, but Minnesota should have no trouble beating them easily.
Prediction total: 1-0
Around the web on the Gophers and the Sycamores:
-This was the best thing I read all week, bar none. The Star Tribune’s Chip Scoggins writes about Gophers linebackers coach Mike Sherels and his recovery process after he spent five days in the ICU on a ventilator due to digestive system failure. Scoggins spoke with Sherels and his wife Emily, who found out she was having twins while Mike was in the ICU. Read every word. It’s well worth your time.
-Todd Aaron Golden of the Tribune-Star writes about how Indiana State’s last chance to get a victory against a Big Ten team would be with a win against Minnesota Saturday. The Sycamores are 0-15 all time against the Big Ten and won’t play another team in the conference for awhile, as the Big Ten will not allow their teams to schedule games against FCS teams in the future, Golden writes.
-Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press takes a look at the new defensive scheme that the Gophers revealed against Oregon State. This is an awesome analysis of the 2-4 front Minnesota used at times in the opener and a good report into how defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel came up with it.
-The Sycamores had a solid season in 2014, but 2015 was a step back (sound like anyone?), the Indiana Statesman’s Rob Lafary writes. Things are looking better for Indiana State football this year, and while they probably won’t grab a win against Minnesota, it sounds like they’ll be able to make another run at the FCS playoffs.
-Good breakdown of head coach Tracy Claeys’ decision to go for two at the end of the game against Oregon State by the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand.
1. There were more negatives than positives from last week’s game
-The important part here for the Gophers will always be that they ended the day with a win, but really, there was a lot of mistakes made by Minnesota in the game against Oregon State. The Gophers had eight penalties that gave the Beavers 70 yards, sophomore center Tyler Moore had two very bad snaps that cost the Gophers big time, three players were ejected for justified targeting calls, and the game really should have never been in a position that required a fourth-quarter comeback in order for the Gophers to win. There were definitely positives from the game, Rodney Smith’s great performance to name one, but all those negatives would’ve cost the Gophers against a slightly harder opponent.
2. Claeys’ failed two-point attempt was criticized too much
-Former Gophers head coach GlenMason and Eric Collins, the two broadcasters on Big Ten Network for the game, and other pundits questioned whether Claeys made the right call by going for two while up seven with 1:27 left. The decision ended up being so insignificant to the outcome, that it shouldn't have been dissected as a bad call after the game. The Beavers’ chances of winning were so minuscule no matter what after that touchdown, so the attempt wasn’t that big of a deal.
3. If the Gophers struggle against Indiana State and Colorado State, then they’ve got problems
-It is far too early to say whether or not the Gophers will struggle this season. If they have two more close games against easy opponents like Indiana State and Colorado State, then there should be cause for concern but it is too early to tell at this point how the remainder of the season will go for Minnesota.
The Minnesota Daily’s football coverage from this past week:
-A story on freshman Tyler Johnson’s first game with the Gophers and his development over the offseason.
-Short feature on the defensive line’s dominant game and the freshman that led the way.
-The first installment of a weekly column interviewing a player from Minnesota's opponent. This week’s subject was Indiana State safety Tsali Lough, who plans on joining the Marines after school.
-Minnesota’s new-look offensive line had a good game Thursday, minus a few mistakes. Overall, the group looked a lot better than they did most of last season.
-Story from the game about Rodney Smith’s excellent day.
-Game recap from Sept. 1.
Everything else you need to know:
Start time: 11:00 a.m. CST
Where: TCF Bank Stadium
Radio: KFAN 100.3
Line: No line available