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Thursday, November 17. 2016

Daily Breakdown: Gophers and Wildcats evenly matched ahead of Saturday’s tilt BY MIKE HENDRICKSON mhendrickson@mndaily.com

Minnesota (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten) ends its home season against an evenly-matched Northwestern (5-5, 4-3 Big Ten) Saturday. A full breakdown and prediction can be found below.

When Minnesota runs the ball: The Gophers rushed for 100 yards or more every game this season before their matchup against No. 19 Nebraska. The group took a step back Saturday after they were held to 85 yards on 34 attempts. The Huskers were the best rushing defense Minnesota had faced all year, but Northwestern’s is just as good. For the second straight week, running backs Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks will be tested. The Wildcats have allowed 145.2 rushing yards a game this season — sixth in the Big Ten. However, in their past three games, that number has inflated to 176. Smith and Brooks won’t have career days, but they still give Minnesota the slight edge. Matchup to watch: RB Rodney Smith vs. LB Anthony Walker Jr. Advantage: Minnesota

When Northwestern runs the ball: Penn State’s Saquon Barkley was the best running back Minnesota will face in the regular season, but Nor thwestern’s Justin Jackson is a close second. The junior is second in the Big Ten with 103.7 rushing yards a game and has rushed for over 120 yards in a game four times this season. He has struggled against tough rushing defenses, though, putting up only 42 and 76 yards against No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 2 Ohio State, respectively. While the Gophers rushing defense isn’t as good as those two teams, it still is among the best in the conference. They have held opponents to a four th-best 122 yards a

game in the Big Ten and limited Barkley when they played him. Although Jackson has breakout potential, Minnesota’s rushing defense is very strong. Matchup to watch: RB Justin Jackson vs. LB Nick Rallis Advantage: Minnesota

When Minnesota passes the ball: There’s no way around it: Minnesota’s passing offense is almost nonexistent at this point. Quarterback Mitch Leidner has thrown only one touchdown in conference play this season, and has yet to throw a touchdown against an FBS team at home. The Gophers are running the ball a lot, but Leidner still has a 1-6 TD/INT ratio against Big Ten teams. Northwestern’s passing defense is the worst in the Big Ten in yards allowed per game. Still, Northwestern’s pass defense limited Leidner last year. He completed less than half his passes for 72 yards and one interception. The Wildcats still have a positive TD-INT ratio, and are just good enough to prevent Leidner from having a strong day. Matchup to watch: WR Drew Wolitarsky vs. CB Montre Hartage Advantage: Northwestern

When Northwestern passes the ball: Wide receiver Austin Carr has been the best at his position in the Big Ten this season. Quarterback Clayton Thorson has constantly gone to him, as Carr leads the conference in receptions by 18 and has the most yards per game by over 35. Carr has elevated Northwestern’s passing attack to third in the conference. The Wildcats average 257.5 yards a game and Thorson has thrown 19 touchdowns with eight interceptions this season.

MEAGAN LYNCH, DAILY FILE PHOTO

Gophers wide receiver Tyler Johnson runs the ball down the field against the Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Nov. 12.

FOOTBALL PREVIEW

VS

MINNESOTA 7-3, 4-3 Big Ten WHEN: 2:30 p.m. Saturday

NORTHWESTERN 5-5, 4-3 Big Ten WHERE: TCF Bank Stadium SOURCE: GOPHERSPORTS.COM

Minnesota’s passing defense has similar numbers to Thorson and has allowed 20 touchdowns this season and grabbed just eight interceptions. The group has struggled this year and can’t seem to find any consistency. This could be where the Wildcats win the game. Matchup to watch: WR Austin Carr vs. S Damarius Travis Advantage: Northwestern

Prediction: Northwestern 17, Minnesota 13. This game could go either way, but injuries on Minnesota’s offensive line and the Wildcats’ strong passing attack gives them the very slight edge. Prediction record: 8-2


Thursday, November 17. 2016

Questions from the Other Side: Northwestern BY JACK WHITE jwhite@mndaily.com

For this weekly column, the Minnesota Daily will interview someone knowledgeable about Minnesota’s next opponent. Bobby Pillote, the assistant gameday editor for Northwestern’s student newspaper, the Daily Northwestern, was interviewed this week. Pillote is a senior at Northwestern University. He has been covering Northwestern football for three years. Northwestern is .500 with a close loss to Ohio State. What has Northwestern done well and what do you think they need to improve on? In terms of things they’ve done well, the offense has really come together in the second half of the season. We’ve seen a lot of

maturation from the quarterback … wide receiver Austin Carr has been fantastic all year long. [The secondary] played pretty last week against Purdue, but you know it’s hard to have takeaways from playing Purdue. So yeah, sometimes they’re good and sometimes they’re not. It’s really just more consistent play out of the back four on the defense. What kind of dynamic does Carr bring to the team? Oh, Carr’s huge. Especially looking at you know last year, there wasn’t really sort of a reliable target, a guy you could always count on if you needed a big play or a first down. Carr is that guy. He just always finds a way to get open. I think he’s only dropped like one pass all year ... He and Thorson u See Q&A Page 8

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Quick Hitters from last week’s game Final: Nebraska: 24, Minnesota: 17 Nov. 12, 2016 Memorial Stadium BY MIKE HENDRICKSON mhendrickson@mndaily.com

Recap: The Gophers saw a 14-10 halftime lead vanish Saturday, as they were held scoreless in the second half by the Huskers in a 24-17 loss at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska. No. 19 Nebraska’s dual-threat quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. was questionable before the game with a concussion but played and had a career day. He finished

with 217 passing yards, two touchdowns through the air, 61 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown. Minnesota didn’t score any points in the second half. The Gophers’ ground game was held to 85 rushing yards while quarterback Mitch Leidner failed to throw a touchdown pass for the fifth straight game. The Huskers completed their second half comeback on a 13-yard touchdown run by Armstrong midway through the fourth u See QUICK HITTERS Page 6


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Thursday, November 17. 2016

Minnesota’s Depth Chart MINNESOTA COACHES

OFFENSE

Tracy Claeys Brian Anderson Jay Johnson

QB

Bart Miller Dan O’Brien

Jeff Phelps Pat Poore Rob Reeves Jay Sawvel Mike Sherels Keith Jordan Eric Klein

Head Coach Wide Receivers Coach Offensive Coordinator Quarterbacks Offensive Line Coach Asst. Defensive Backs Co-Special Teams Cord. Asst. to the Head Coach Defensive Line Coach Running Backs Co-Special Teams Coordinator H-Backs Tight Ends Coach Defensive Coordinator Linebackers Coach Special Teams Quality Control Head Strength and Conditioning Coach

RB

TE X-WR H-WR Z-WR LT LG C RG RT

7 15 1 23 22 80 44 88 6 82 5 9 6 73 74 62 61 77 55 78 76 79

Mitch Leidner (6-4, 230, R-Sr.) Conor Rhoda (6-3, 215, R-Jr.) Rodney Smith (5-11, 205, R-So.) Shannon Brooks (6-0, 210, So.) Kobe McCrary (6-1, 235, Jr.) Nate Wozniak (6-10, 275, R-Jr.) Colton Beebe (6-3, 270, R-Fr.) Rashad Still (6-5, 205, So.) Tyler Johnson (6-2, 185, Fr.) Drew Wolitarsky (6-3, 220, Sr.) Melvin Holland (6-3, 205, R-So.) Eric Carter (5-11, 195, R-Jr.) Tyler Johnson (6-2, 185, Fr.) Donnell Greene (6-7, 345, R-So.) Nick Connelly (6-7, 300, R-Fr.) Jared Weyler (6-4, 305, R-So.) Bronson Dovich (6-5, 300, R-Fr.) Tyler Moore (6-4, 305, So.) Connor Mayes (6-5, 330, Jr.)

70 58

Chad Fahning (6-6, 290, R-Jr.) -ORQuinn Oseland (6-6, 320, R-Fr.)

DEFENSE DE DT DT DE LB LB LB

CB

Garrison Wright (6-4, 320, R-Jr.) -ORVincent Calhoun (6-4, 330, Jr.)

CB

Jonah Pirsig (6-9, 325, R-Sr.)

S

95 92 97 52 96 99 87 46 13 49 56 41 50 20 45 3 34 5 30 7

Hendrick Ekpe (6-5, 240, Sr.) Tai’yon Devers (6-4, 215, Fr.) Scott Ekpe (6-4, 285, R-Sr.) Yoshoub Timms (6-2, 295, R-Sr.) Steve Richardson (6-0, 300, Jr.) Andrew Stelter (6-4, 290, Jr.) Gaelin Elmore (6-6, 275, Jr.) Winston DeLattiboudere (6-3, 240, R-Fr.) Jonathan Celestin (6-1, 220, Jr.) Kamal Martin (6-3 225 Fr.) Nick Rallis (5-11, 240, R-Sr.) Thomas Barber (6-1, 240, Fr.) Jack Lynn (6-3, 240, R-Sr.) Julian Huff (6-0, 225, So.) -ORCarter Coughlin (6-4, 220, Fr.) KiAnte Hardin (5-10, 175, So.) Antonio Shenault (5-11, 180, So.) Jalen Myrick (5-10, 205, Sr.) Eric Amoako (5-11, 195, R-Sr.) Damarius Travis (6-2, 215, R-Sr.)

S

17 11 8

Jacob Huff (5-11, 205, So.) -ORAntoine Winfield Jr. (5-10, 195, Fr.) Duke McGhee (6-1, 205, R-Jr.)

SPECIAL TEAMS K P LS KR PR H

38 37 18 47 25 39 3 1 3 34 47 18

Emmit Carpenter (6-0, 199, R-So.) John Mack (6-0, 185, Fr.) Ryan Santoso (6-6, 250, R-Jr.) Jacob Herbers (6-2, 215, R-Fr.) Payton Jordahl (6-2, 225, R-So.) Trey Hansen (6-2, 205, R-Fr.) KiAnte Hardin (5-10, 175, So.) Rodney Smith (5-11, 205, R-So.) KiAnte Hardin (5-10, 175, So.) Antonio Shenault (5-11, 180, So.) Jacob Herbers (6-2, 215, R-Fr.) Ryan Santoso (6-6, 250, R-Jr.)


Thursday, November 17. 2016

5

Northwestern’s Depth Chart NORTHWESTERN COACHES

OFFENSE

Pat Fitzgerald Randy Bates

QB

Jerry Brown Adam Cushing Mike Hankwitz Bob Heffner Marty Long Matt MacPherson

Mick McCall Dennis Springer

Head Coach Assistant Coach Linebackers Assistant Head Coach Defensive Backs Assistant Coach Offensive Line Defensive Coordinator Assistant Coach Superbacks Assistant Coach Defensive Line Assistant Coach Running Backs Recruiting Coordinator Offensive Coordinator Quarterbacks Coach Assistant Coach Wide Receivers

RB WR WR WR LT LG C RG RT SB

18 7 21 20 80 82 2 15 4 88 72 79 59 68 69 65 71 64 76 75 9 84

Clayton Thorson (6-4, 220, So.) Matt Alviti (6-0, 200, Jr.) Justin Jackson (5-11, 195, Jr.) John Moten IV (6-0, 202, R-Fr.) Austin Carr (6-1, 200, Sr.) Andrew Scanlan (6-2, 215, Sr.) Flynn Nagel (5-11, 181, So.) Macan Wilson (6-0, 186, Jr.) Solomon Vault (5-10, 190, Jr.) Bennett Skowronek (6-4, 210, Fr.) Blake Hance (6-5, 305, So.) Sam Coverdale (6-7, 305, Jr.) J.B. Butler (6-3, 300, So.) Connor Mahoney (6-4, 285, Sr.) Brad North (6-2, 290, Jr.) Jared Thomas (6-4, 290, R-Fr.) Tommy Doles (6-6, 295, So.) Andrew Otterman (6-5, 295, R-Fr.) Eric Olson (6-6, 305, Sr.) Ben Oxley (6-6, 291, So.) Garrett Dickerson (6-3, 245, Jr.) Cameron Green (6-3, 210, R-Fr)

DEFENSE LE DT DT RE WLB MLB SLB CB CB S S

90 97 99 92 67 95 56 7 10 51 1 45 32 42 24 17 29 17 16 48 21 41

C.J. Robbins (6-5, 305, Gr.) Joe Gaziano (6-4, 265, R-Fr.) Jordan Thompson (6-3, 290, So.) Fred Wyatt (6-4, 285, So.) Tyler Lancaster (6-3, 310, Jr.) Alex Miller (6-3, 260, Fr.) Xavier Washington 6-1 243 Jr. Ifeadi Odenigbo (6-3, 265, Sr.) Brett Walsh (6-1, 215, Jr.) Jaylen Prater (6-0, 230, Sr.) Anthony Walker, Jr. (6-1, 245, Jr.) Nathan Fox (6-2, 245, R-Fr.) Nate Hall (6-2, 230, So.) Joseph Jones (6-1, 235, Sr.) Montre Hartage (6-0, 190, So.) Marcus McShepard (5-11, 200, Jr.) Trae Williams (5-11, 200, R-Fr.) Kiy Hester (6-0, 203, So.) Godwin Igwebuike (6-0, 205, Jr.) Tommy Odell (5-11, 196, Jr.) Kyle Queiro (6-3, 200, Jr.) Jared McGee (6-1, 215, So.)

SPECIAL TEAMS PK P LS H KR PR KO

8 33 96 33 52 33 4 2 8 33

Jack Mitchell 6-3 210 Sr.) Matt Micucci (5-11, 190, Sr.) Hunter Niswander 6-5 240 Jr) Matt Micucci (5-11, 190, Sr.) Chris Fitzpatrick (6-2, 230, Jr.) Matt Micucci (5-11, 190, Sr.) Solomon Vault (5-10, 190, So.) Flynn Nagel (5-11, 181, So.) Jack Mitchell (6-3, 210, Sr.) Matt Micucci (5-11, 190, Sr.)

*Depth charts accurate as of Nov. 16


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Thursday, November 17. 2016

Quick Hitters from the Nebraska game Quick Hitters u from Page 3

quarter to make the score 24-17. Leidner and the Gophers marched down the field but the quarterback threw an interception with 1:29 remaining to end the game to prevent a Gophers upset in Lincoln.

It was over when: The Gophers were down seven and at Nebraska’s 17-yard line when Leidner threw an interception with 1:29 remaining in the fourth quarter. Minnesota only had one timeout left, so the Huskers ran out the clock to end the game.

Key play: The teams were tied in the fourth quarter, but the Huskers took the lead on a run by their quarterback. Armstrong Jr. kept the ball on a read

option and ran up the middle for a 13-yard touchdown to put Nebraska up by seven with 7:17 remaining.

Five obser vations: 1. The Gophers’ of fensive line was a problem Minnesota’s offensive line had one of its rougher games this season. The two running backs both had low numbers, as not a lot of room was being created for them to make plays. Head coach Tracy Claeys made a point of this after the game. 2. Missed tackles, missed tackles and missed tackles. Missed tackles by the Gophers defense were one key reason the Huskers staged a comeback Saturday. Minnesota’s tackling was weak in the second half, which led to multiple touchdowns by Nebraska. This was the second

thing Claeys said cost them the game. 3. Wolitarsky was the lone bright spot on offense. Gophers running backs are usually the stars on offense, but that wasn’t the case Saturday. Wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky had the best game on the offense, leading the team with eight receptions and 90 yards. 4. Passing game needs to find ways to score It wasn’t a problem when the Gophers were winning, but a stronger performance from Leidner and all of his receivers would’ve made it a closer game. Leidner hasn’t thrown a touchdown in five games and only has one in the Big Ten this season. His options are limited, as Wolitarsky is the only wide receiver getting significant numbers. 5. Gophers still have something to play for.

Barring a miracle, The Big Ten West title is out of reach for the Gophers. That doesn’t mean this team has nothing to play for. A win against Nor thwestern this upcoming Saturday and a strong per formance against Wisconsin would show progress for the program and mean a respectable bowl game in December.

Quote of the game: “We are all disappointed [when] you go on the road and have a chance and we just didn’t play well enough in the second half to win the ball game and Nebraska played better than we did,” head coach Tracy Claeys said after the game.

Up next: The Gophers (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten) will play Northwestern (5-5, 4-3) in their last home game of the season on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 2:30 p.m. at TCF Bank Stadium.


Thursday, November 17. 2016

7

Minnesota to play season’s home finale The Gophers will take on Northwestern this Saturday. BY MIKE HENDRICKSON mhendrickson@mndaily.com

Minnesota’s loss against No. 19 Nebraska wasn’t just a tough defeat on the road. It eliminated almost all hope of the Gophers winning the Big Ten West. But the team still has something to play for. With a win against Northwestern Saturday, the Gophers would win eight games for the third time in four seasons. The game against the Wildcats will be the last home game for Minnesota this season and the last time at TCF Bank Stadium for the small group of seniors. “Sometimes you lose sight of it with some of the things that go on and having a tough loss last weekend,” said redshirt senior quarterback Mitch Leidner. “But at the same time when you go back and reflect it’s pretty remarkable what we’ve been able to do as a senior class. We are definitely not finished yet and I think ever yone understands that.” The Gophers have 13 seniors on their team this year, the third smallest group in the FBS. However, nine of those players have started nearly every game they have played in. Leidner, right tackle Jonah Pirsig, safety Damarius Travis, defensive linemen Scott and Hank Ekpe, cornerback Jalen Myrick and wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky have all played in over 40 games over their careers. Travis leads the pack with 50 games, including 20 starts. “It’s been very special, a very good role for me,” Travis said. “I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been here, through just this coaching staff and just the state of Minnesota.” Head coach Tracy Claeys compared this year’s group of seniors to the graduating class from last season. Both groups came to Minnesota when the team hadn’t been above .500 since 2008. Claeys pointed to a statistic about this year’s senior class winning 29 games — the most by a class since 2006. “When they got here, everything wasn’t all rosy and going the right direction, and

MEAGAN LYNCH, DAILY FILE PHOTO

Gophers running back Shannon Brooks fights through the Cornhuskers defense at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Nov. 12.

the culture had to change, and they were a big part of that,” Claeys said. “They’ve obviously had a good run here and done some good things, and so, hopefully we can close it out.” Northwestern won’t be the easiest team for Minnesota to get a home win against. Last season, the Wildcats defeated the Gophers 27-0. It was the first time Minnesota had been shut out since 2011. Leidner said Nebraska and Northwestern are similar teams, but the Wildcats bring more pressure. “They play good and sound defense. They will be in the right spots at the right times,” Leidner said. “It’s a matter of receivers having a win and having enough time to throw the football and feel confident with our gameplay that we have so far.” The Gophers will end their regular

season with a game at No. 6 Wisconsin. Minnesota already clinched bowl-eligibility with a win at Illinois in October. For redshirt senior linebacker Nick Rallis, the game against Northwestern is still important. “I don’t know if it’s hit me yet. It probably will on game day,” Rallis said. “I’m just kind of focusing on preparing for Northwestern, because if you don’t go out with a win, you know it’s not going to be a great memory.”

Notebook: Offensive lineman Jared Weyler is out with torn triceps, Claeys said on KFAN 100.3 FM Tuesday. Weyler has star ted eight games and played in all 10 this season. Leidner has yet to throw a touchdown against an FBS team at home this season.

The Gophers still average 34 points a game at home, up 11.4 from last year. The University of Minnesota announced Tuesday that its NCAA Graduation Success Rate is at 90 percent, a two-percent increase from last year. In 2005, the rate was 67 percent.

“When they got here, everything wasn’t all rosy and going the right direction, and the culture had to change, and they were a big part of that. They’ve obviously had a good run here and done some good things, and so, hopefully we can close it out.” TRACY CLAEYS Head coach


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Thursday, November 17. 2016

Questions from the Other Side: Bobby Pillote Q&A u from Page 3

have a really good rapport … What can people expect from Clayton Thorson in terms of a skill set? Expect him to actually look pretty poised in the pocket. His pocket awareness I think has improved for him from a year ago. He’s gotten much better under pressure, he’s gotten much better at … getting the ball away when he has to and he’s gotten much better at making good decisions. So look for him to be pretty poised. Especially after last week. He threw two interceptions against Purdue — I think look for him to be a little more careful with the football and really sharp. You talked a little bit about it already, but do you think the win against Purdue will help carr y over to success against Minnesota? It’s hard to pull too many things away from

Purdue, but I think so. I think it shows that the offense is still clicking on all cylinders and that the pass defense might finally be there … Purdue’s not great, but they do throw the ball a lot and I thought the secondary held up OK against them. But really I think the big teaching against Purdue is they were able to get the run game going late. That’s not always there for them … Justin Jackson is one of the top backs in the Big Ten, so if they can get him going as well and Thorson is having a good day, then it’s gonna be hard to stop that Northwestern offense. What does Northwestern have to do to find success in a game? Defense has to get off the field. A lot of times when they struggled it’s not about giving up the big play but it’s letting the other team’s offense go down the field for 8, 10, [or] 15-play drives that really eat up a lot of clock … actually getting off the field … and winning that field position battle is really key for Northwestern.

How would you grade Pat Fitzgerald as a coach? You know he’s gotten a lot better this season. He came into the year having a [reputation] for kind of being a very conservative guy and not being very good at clock management, but I think he’s gotten a lot better this year. Part of that is [their] kicker is not very good. He really won’t try anything beyond 40 yards, but Northwestern will go for a lot of fourth downs. So, if you’re kind of in the 40 to 30-yard range and it’s fourth and short, watch out … overall he’s gotten a lot more aggressive in his coaching style this season and I think you’ve seen that pay off with some fourth down conversions. What does Northwestern have to do this year to make a bowl game? Realistically, just one more win. [They’ve] got Minnesota left on the schedule and Illinois the week after that, so a win over Illinois looks pretty likely … Of course, it does look like there are gonna be some 5-7 teams in

bowl games this year as well so if they lose out, Northwestern I think is fourth in [Academic Progress Report] and the top-3 teams have already qualified for bowl games, so if a 5-7 team is gonna be taken, Northwestern is gonna be first. So it’s not quite official yet, but it does look like they’re [going to] be playing. What is Northwestern’s strongest position group? I’m inclined to say running backs now. Justin Jackson is one of the best in the Big Ten. He’s just so consistent in his play, and we also saw last week, backup [John Moten IV], break out a 100-yard game. So if [Moten] can be good break for Jackson … they can kind of switch back to that two-headed attack, I think they’re [going to] be really effective. But really just having Jackson in there, it’s hard to call anything but the running backs the best position. Score prediction? 28-27 Northwestern.

SPEED ROUND WITH BOBBY PILLOTE OF THE DAILY NORTHWESTERN BY JACK WHITE

NORTHWESTERN FINISHES WITH HOW MANY WINS? NORTHWESTERN'S BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER?

JABRILL PEPPERS

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP WINNER?

CLAYTON THORSON AS QB ON A SCALE OF 1-10?

JUSTIN JACKSON NORTHWESTERN'S BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER?

DOES NORTHWESTERN THROW FOR OVER 250 YARDS? BIG TEN PLAYER OF THE YEAR?

7

ALABAMA

YES

BIG TEN CHAMPION? HEISMAN WINNER? SCORE PREDICTION?

6.5

ANTHONY WALKER JR

MICHIGAN LAMAR JACKSON

28-27 NORTHWESTERN

Gameday Preview: Minnesota vs. Northwestern  
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