After its first home Big Ten win in nearly five years, the Rutgers football team looks to start a winning streak when it travels to face Minnesota on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights (4-3, 1-3) will be attempting to win their first matchup ever against the Golden Gophers (4-3, 1-3), who are 2-0 in the all-time series. Here are three keys to this week’s matchup.
Constant defensive pressure
On a trip to University Park, Pennsylvania, last week, Minnesota was blown out by Penn State 45-17. The Gophers offense was only able to produce 175 yards of total passing in the matchup.
While some of that can be attributed to Tanner Morgan missing his first start in years, the No. 13 Nittany Lions (6-1, 3-1) applied a lot of pressure and forced Athan Kaliakmanis to make mistakes in his first career start.
Rutgers also needs defensive pressure to prevent the Minnesota offense from establishing the run game. Mohamed Ibrahim crossed the 100-yard mark for the 15th straight game on Saturday, matching the longest streak of three-figure games by a running back in the past 25 years.
Expect defensive coordinator Joe Harasymiak, who spent three seasons with the Gophers and was the co-defensive coordinator in 2020, to send lots of blitz packages in order to force the offense to make quick decisions with the football. Sophomore defensive lineman Aaron Lewis is a player to watch based on his recent performances and could be in line for a big day in Minnesota.
Offensive line needs to improve
Freshman running back Samuel Brown V was finally given the keys to the backfield against Indiana and made the most of it, rushing for 101 yards on 28 carries. While these are great numbers, Brown did most of the work himself with 89 of those yards coming after contact.
The offensive line will have to create more chances for Brown to get out into space against a defense that has only allowed five rushing touchdowns in conference play. The Knights could also gear toward the passing game, as Minnesota has only recorded nine sacks, good for last in the conference.
Either way, senior quarterback Noah Vedral and Brown need an improved effort this week from the five up front.
Play smarter football
The usual makeup of a team playing under head coach Greg Schiano is a well disciplined unit that doesn’t allow mistakes to hurt it. This season, that is not the case as Rutgers averages more than 67 penalty yards per game, the third highest in the Big Ten. The Gophers are on the opposite end of the spectrum, allowing the second least yards per game in the conference.
In a close matchup, the Knights need to limit their mistakes and turnovers in order to defeat Minnesota.
The matchup is set for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff on Saturday with the broadcast taking place on the Big Ten Network and 88.7 WRSU-FM.
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