Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE
How the Texas Tech Red Raiders can attack the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
ATTACKING THE MINNESOTA OFFENSE
So it appears that WR/QB MarQueis Gray is the best player on the team and he's a load, standing at 6-4/250. Gray was the starter at quarterback early in the year, but was eventually replaced by Phillip Nelson and/or Max Shortell. I'm guessing that Gray is taking over in the capacity of play-maker no matter where he lines up offensively.
If there ever was a time to sell out to stop the run, much like the Kansas game, this is it. Minnesota is really struggling in a bad was throwing the ball, throwing for only 78, 90 and 92 yards over their last three games. It makes complete sense to force Minnesota to beat them with the pass, however, we now see how that worked out against Kansas. Safeties were burned and things didn't go as well as planned. Still, Minnesota hasn't shown a propensity to protect the quarterback (allowing 1 sack for every 17 attempts) and obviously is struggling to complete a pass.
With the passing offense struggling, I mentioned yesterday about the struggling rush offense in that they only managed 87 yards against Nebraska and 4 yards against Michigan St. I mentioned Gray and being an all-purpose player, he is second on the team with 61 rushing attempts and 331 yards rushing for a 5.43 average. That's crazy to think that he's 6-4 or 6-5 and running the ball. Sophomore runner Donnell Kirkwood is, by far, the leader of the pack in terms of heading up this offense. He's rushed 199 times for 848 yards and 5 touchdowns. He is the Golden Gopher's workhorse.
In looking at the offensive line, They are a relatively young bunch and this is probably part of the problem offensively. Minnesota is starting one junior, but three sophomores and one redshirt freshman along the line. More than likely, Kill is maybe taking his lumps now to have a line that can do some damage in the next few years.
ATTACKING THE MINNESOTA DEFENSE
Minnesota is actually a pretty middle of the pack defense and as mentioned yesterday, they are fantastic against the pass in a conference that doesn't pass. I don't know what that says. They can be wildly inconsistent from a rush defense perspective, giving up 337 yards against Wisconsin to giving up just 133 against Nebraska. Perhaps the best player along the line is DE D.L. Wilhite who has 8.5 sacks and that's actually some pretty good production. This might be problematic for either of the tackles who struggle with speed rushers as Wilhite only tips the scales at 244 pounds. That will be an interesting matchup.
I think that CB Michael Carter is the team's best defensive player, but his stats don't jump off the page except for the fact that he leads the team in pass break-ups with 14 and that's by a fairly side margin. CB Troy Stoudermire is also maybe the other significant player in the defensive backfield and he does lead the team in tackles with 78. As an aside, Stoudermire is from Dallas, Skyline in particular, as is LB Keanan Cooper who is also from Skyline. Glen Mason was a dogged recruiter and recruited a ton of players in Texas. As a second aside, Cooper was also a Texas Tech commit as some point and RB Eric Stephens was once a Minnesota commit. Cooper along with Aaron Hill and Mike Rallis lead the linebacking corps and they are all in the top five in tackles on the team.
It's so danged to difficult to tell if Minnesota can defend the pass as the Big Ten isn't necessarily a passing conference. It's strange to figure out and if I had to guess, Minnesota will struggle to defend the pass and it makes sense to think that Texas Tech will do what they do best. It is also interesting in that they are not that great defending the run. Who else is looking forward to seeing the difference in offense when Sonny Cumbie calls plays without the governor that was Tuberville.