Minnesota enters Saturday’s homecoming contest in Bloomington hoping to be a formidable opponent but an unwelcome guest. The Gophers are riding the crest of an impressive 6-2 record after impressive wins over Northwestern and Nebraska.
Meanwhile, the Hoosiers have had two weeks to stew about a 63-47 loss at Michigan in which season-long defensive issues resurfaced. There won’t be many changes in personnel, but IU head coach Kevin Wilson hopes his team will be more accountable on an individual and collective basis. Wilson and his defensive coaches stressed fundamentally-sound, assignment specific football during the last two weeks, pointing out that players were in the right position against the Wolverines, but failed to ultimately make the play.
The Gophers offense appears to be rounding into form. Much like IU, Minnesota has shuffled two quartebacks in Mitch Leidner and Phillip Nelson. Nelson has been a catalyst since returning from injury, using both his arm and legs to spur the Gophers offense. Minnesota has rushed for 19 touchdowns this year, after rushing for 14 scores last year. Fifteen of those touchdowns have been of five yards or shorter and 11 (including the last eight) have been 1-yard scoring bursts. Junior RB David Cobb is the Gophers top ground-gainer, rushing for 615-yards, a 5.2 yards per carry average and five touchdowns.
Defensively, Minnesota is an aggressive, attacking unit. Defensive linemen Theiren Cockran and Ra’Shede Hagerman, a potential high NFL draft choice spearhead a disruptive front line. Cockran’s collected 5.5 sacks, while Hagerman excels at beating blocks and getting in the backfield.
IU will try to counter with their quick-strike offense and attempt to control the clock enough to keep the Gophers ball-control offense on the sidelines. While IU often posts plenty of offensive fireworks, the Hoosiers are still searching for consistency that will allow them to play on the lead rather than catch up.
Tre Roberson sparked the offense with his play at Michigan, while Nate Sudfeld turned in a second-consecutive shaky performance. With IU’s season likely on the line, Wilson may prefer the added threat of Roberson’s mobility to keep Minnesota off-balance.
Extra Points: The Hoosiers own a 44-50-6 record on Homecoming, including wins in six of the last nine seasons…Indiana is 7-2 against Minnesota on Homecoming, with four straight victories….At 6-2, the Gophers are bowl eligible….Tracy Claeys will once again fill in as Minnesota’s interim head coach, while Jerry Kill continues to recover from epilepsy attacks….Indiana is the only team in the FBS with four players with 100 receptions and 1,000 yards in their careers, the first team since 2011 (Houston and Texas A&M) and the first Big Ten team since 2008 (Northwestern)….Mitch Ewald made his first 50-yard field goal at Michigan en route to his second career B1G Special Teams POW honor. He is IU’s all-time leader in field goals, field goal percentage, extra points and total points (kickers).