After three intriguing nonconference games (Greg Paulus’ football debut, TCF opener and No. 8 Cal), the University of Minnesota football team opens Big Ten Conference play at 11 a.m. Saturday at Northwestern.
The Gophers stand at 2-1, having beaten Syracuse and Air Force before losing to No. 8 Cal last weekend.
I didn’t catch any of the Air Force game, but after watching the Syracuse and Cal games, there are a few issues this team has to be concerned with:
- Lack of a consistent running game. The Gophers have leaned on the passing game far too much in the first three games of the season, simply because they can’t consistently pick up yards on the ground. This team is a far cry from the ones led by Marion Barber and Laurence Maroney earlier this decade.
- Offensive line protection. Anyone else find it alarming that, with the Gophers down 14 points in the fourth quarter against Cal, Adam Weber seemed to have no time to throw the football when the Bears were rushing just three or four linemen? That can’t continue.
- Eric Decker gets banged up. Decker is a huge part of this offense, so the Gophers can ill afford to have him hampered by the ankle injury he suffered near the end of Saturday’s loss. Decker reportedly was running with the team on Sunday.
- Allowing five rushing TDs in a game? Yikes! I know it’s one of the top tailbacks in the country in Jahvid Best. Still, the Gophers have to bounce back from that. I doubt Northwestern will provide as much trouble.