Pregame blog: Gophers at Northwestern

by Jack Satzinger

After a week off, the Gophers are set to face Northwestern at Ryan Field this morning. Head coach Jerry Kill, taking an indefinite leave of absence, is not with the team. Without him, Minnesota has prepared with defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys as interim head coach and redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner as the new quarterback. 

On Tuesday, the Gophers said they were looking to re-establish their once-potent run game against Northwestern. Leidner should be at the forefront of that effort, with his punishing run style in Minnesota's read-option offense. 

Northwestern's offense is among the quickest in the country, but will not be at full strength Saturday. Dual-threat quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark both sustained lower body injuries in last week's 35-6 loss at Wisconsin. Colter is dressed and will only play in an emergency situation, per Northwestern sports' Twitter account. Mark is out. 

The absence of both Colter and Mark is a huge hit for Northwestern's offense, which looked one-dimensional last week without them. Even without its head coach, the Gophers seem to have a legitimate shot to upset the Wildcats Saturday considering an extra week to prepare combined with key injuries.