Gophers defense catches small break versus Northwestern

by Sarah Mitchell

Minnesota’s defense has not fared well against its opponents who run an option offense, as reflected in losses to Ohio and Indiana this season.
In their latest defensive nightmare, the Gophers (5-3, 3-2) were defeated 51-43 in Bloomington over the weekend. The Hoosiers amassed 611 yards of total offense — mostly because Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El collected 473 yards of total offense on his own.
So, what is it about facing teams that run the option?
“We’ve got a lot of different guys in different places,” Gophers defensive end Karon Riley said.
On Saturday, the Gophers have another chance to conquer their weakness. Northwestern — a team which does not feature the option, but is capable of running it — comes to town.
Minnesota has a better match-up with the Wildcats for one reason, and one reason only.
“They’re a pretty good team, but they don’t have Randle El,” Riley said.

Quarterback controversy?
Gophers coach Glen Mason said quarterback Travis Cole suffered a slight concussion in Saturday’s game, but should be available for the weekend. Cole won’t return to practice until mid-week.
“We sat Cole out (Monday). He’ll probably sit out (Tuesday), just precautionary because he got a little head bump during the game,” Mason said. “He’ll be fine.”
Redshirt freshman Asad Abdul-Khaliq — who lost the starting role to Cole earlier this season — replaced Cole in the fourth quarter at Indiana. Abdul-Khaliq completed 3-of-4 passes for 38 yards and raised the possibility of another quarterback controversy.
“(Abdul-Khaliq) may start. My plans aren’t that he will start, but he might start,” Mason said. “I don’t know.”
Once again Mason stressed that every position is always up for grabs.
“Whoever I think gives us the best chance to play and depending on how that guy is playing and how the game goes, that’s who will play,” Mason said.

Gopher cornerback Willie Middlebrooks is scheduled to have surgery today. Middlebrooks broke his left leg in the second quarter against the Hoosiers and is out for the rest of the regular season.

Sarah Mitchell covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected].