There may be no sleep til Brooklyn, but there's just one more sleep til Gopher football vs Western Michigan...
The Gopher Now blog from the PP gets us started today with three good nuggets: first is the challenge the Gopher defense will face against the spread passing attack of Western Michigan:
"The yards after the catch and how we tackle will have a hell of a lot to do with how successful we are," (DC Tracy) Claeys said. "That’s why I worry. If you don’t have energy and juice that’s where you seem to have a lot less tackles. (Western Michigan coach) Bill (Cubit) has thrown more short passes against us than anybody. Once you get used to it, you just can’t let it frustrate you."
Claeys habits are to get pressure from different areas, and to substitute- a lot. Most DC's nowadays will sub their d-linemen pretty frequently or their DB's if they're getting tired, but if you've watched the Gophers on defense this season you probably noticed how often he switches up his linebackers. The starters and second unit play quite a bit, and it seems he likes to intermingle the groups. It always give the offense and QB a different look, and hopefully keeps them off balance. That, and obviously it tries to keep the that "energy and juice" he's talking about up as much as possible by keeping guys as fresh as possible.
"Football is going towards a hurry-up scheme and you cannot play the same people over and over," (Claeys) said. "It could get you tired. The other reason behind a hurry-up (offense) is they say you can’t blitz a hurry-up offense. We don’t agree with that."
He's proven pretty adept at substituting liberally against the hurry-up offense New Hampshire ran last weekend, so look for everybody on the two deep to see plenty of snaps again on defense.
Safety Derrick Wells has apparently had this game circled on his calendar for awhile as he knew Western Michigan could be throwing the ball "maybe 50 or 60 times" on Saturday. Wells doesn't just lead the team in picks, but also in tackles thus far with 16 and he doesn't feel the pressure of being the key guy in the secondary:
"I do feel that they’re feeding off me," Wells said. "But I think this week, we’ll all be ready for the challenge. We know he’s a good quarterback and he can throw the ball around. We’re just going to go out there and get the job done."
If the front seven can continue to bring the pressure they have, Wells will get more opportunites to make plays.
Another playmaker in the secondary thus far has been JUCO transfer Martez Shabazz, but he sounds questionable at best for tomorrow's game with an ankle injury. The Gophers aren't exactly flush with experienced, talented corners, and if he can't go it would be magnified even more so in a game where the opposition is going to try and throw a lot. The other injury story is on the offensive line, where starting center Zach Mottla may not go because of an undisclosed injury. While the story doesn't speculate on who his replacement would be, allow me: in fall camp there was discussion about moving starting RG Zach Epping inside to center and having Foster Bush start at RG. Wonder if that's still the plan if Mottla can't play? The line played much better against UNH, and you wonder if it wouldn't be better for chemistry and continuity to just plug in backup Jon Christenson instead of shifting in two new starters at two new positions.
From a Western Michigan perspective, the Broncos are looking to beat Minnesota's strong pass rush with good execution. They like to spread you out with four and five receivers, so this is what Coach Claeys was talking about where the guys in pass coverage need to be ready and on top of things.
If you're on the East Bank this morning, the Gophersports website says to keep an eye out for head football coach Jerry Kill, who will be out promoting tomorrow's game. I might as well just cut and paste here...
To show appreciation for the great student turnout at last Saturday's Gopher football home opener, head coach Jerry Kill will be walking around campus Friday, Sept. 14 distributing tickets, "No More Minnesota Nice" t-shirts and other treats to U of M students in preparation for Saturday's game against Western Michigan at TCF Bank Stadium.
Coach will be out and about on the East Bank campus from approximately 10:45 to 11:30 a.m. in the following locations:
- Starting near the Knoll Area (traffic circle of Pleasant St. SE) about 10:45 a.m.
- Work towards the Northrop Mall/Plaza area
- Finishing near the Washington Ave. Bridge pedestrian plaza outside Coffman Memorial Union
Whatever he told the students before last week's game worked because that was the best showing from the student section since early in year 1 of The Bank. Let's hope to see another strong showing tomorrow. And oh by the way, if you're going to the game- Gold Out. Don't forget.
Down With Goldy has an interesting discussion in a Wednesday Wonderings post: looking at the Gophers success- and media coverage- compared to other BCS schools in major markets, the U stacks up pretty well. When people talk about the struggles here and why football can't be better and get more support, I feel like this point isn't made enough. Iowa football is all Iowa has. Ditto Nebraska. The Badgers are all by their lonesome in Madison. The Spartans in East Lansing. Illinois down in Champaign. Every school in the SEC. The Gophers have to compete year in and year out with a Vikings-mad state, plus what has been, at least until the past couple of years, a really good Twins team, a Timberwolves team that is never good but for some reason gets a ton of coverage (seriously, if there were such a metric showing media coverage per wins, the Wolves would lead by a mile), and if there's ever a season, the Wild could be not only good, but interesting for the first time...well probably ever. You also have Gopher basketball and hockey. Name me another town that supports seven teams? If Gopher football doesn't win, there's no way it stands out in this sports landscape. I think Jerry Kill has them on the right track, but until you become relevant- ie) at least getting to a New Year's Day bowl, it's going to be tough to draw larger crowds and more attention that they're currently getting.
The E!SPN B1G blog looks at the improving Gopher D-line. They've gotten a ton of pressure againt two not-so-good teams thus far, and while Western Michigan isn't exactly a powerhouse, they have a very good offense, and therefore present a very good test.
The MN Daily looks at the WMU game and what they're calling Minnesota's toughest test yet. No argument here.
Jim Souhan has a Gopher baseball story? In September? Yep, and it's a good one.
That's it for today. Don't forget- GOLD OUT tomorrow! Wear Gold and Go Gophers!