Antwaan Randle El is more than a quarterback. He is the Golden Child of Indiana football.
“I don’t think there’s a better football player in the Big Ten,” Gophers coach Glen Mason said. “I’m not sure there’s a better football player in the country.”
“This guy is as good as it gets. There is no controversy over the opinion of Randle El.”
Mason’s statement is bold. But few — if any — disagree.
Randle El is elusive on the ground and through the air. In his 28-game career the junior has passed for 5,006 yards and rushed for 2,178 more. Randle El is only the second Division IA player (Brian Mitchell) to pass for more than 5,000 yards and run for more than 2,000 yards.
This season, Randle El is second in the conference and 20th in the country in total offense, accounting for 1,501 of the Hoosiers (2-4, 1-2 Big Ten) 2,543 yards total offense. He is a major part of the equation which equals an average of 32 points per game scored by the Hoosier offense.
“(Randle El’s) the best athlete in the conference, second best player in the conference, in my opinion, and not far behind (Purdue quarterback) Drew Brees,” Gophers defensive coordinator David Gibbs said. “He totally dominates the football game and he has his hands on the football every play.”
Gibbs also said the Indiana offense will be the toughest test for No. 22 Minnesota (5-2, 3-1). It’s a test, however, his defense is finally prepared to take.
In the past three games, Minnesota’s defense returned to fundamentals, pressuring the opposing quarterback and stopping the run.
Following their 29-17 upset at Ohio State last week, the Gophers are second in the league in total defense (306 yards per game). They are second best in the conference in pass defense (194.6 yards per game) and third in rush defense (121.4 yards per game).
“They do an excellent job stopping the run and they’re playing well enough on the outside with the bump and run coverage to make difficult for you to throw the football,” Cameron said.
Besides the numbers, the Gophers have history on their side. In the past two seasons, Minnesota has held its own against Randle El and the Hoosiers.
On the road in 1998, Randle El rushed for 143 yards and one touchdown. But through the air he was lacking, completing just 4 of 17 passes for 39 yards.
Last year, Randle El completed 12 of 30 attempts for 161 yards and carried the ball 18 times for 64 yards. In a game that was close until the fourth quarter, Minnesota won 44-20 and left Gibbs unimpressed.
“He embarrassed us last year. We couldn’t tackle him last year,” Gibbs said. “I’m hoping somehow, some way we find a way to tackle him.”
Coming off a 58-0 defeat at Michigan last weekend, Cameron is praying the Gophers can’t get their hands on his signal caller.
“We’ve got to find a way and we will find a way to turn this thing around,” Cameron said.
With a less than average defense — the Hoosiers rank last in the Big Ten in scoring defense (38.5 points per game), pass defense (293 yards per game) and total defense (479.2 yards per game — Indiana doesn’t just depend on Randle El.
It is Randle El.
Sarah Mitchell covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]