Halftime Thoughts As I suspected, this game is close and competitive. Actually, it can’t get any closer. Northwestern and Minnesota go into the break tied 17-17. Let’s look briefly at a few notable game happenings. -C.J. who? Certainly doesn’t look like Northwestern is going to have an emergency situation where it needs quarterback C.J. Bacher back. Junior Mike Kafka has stepped in and made an impact for Northwestern. Kafka didn’t throw an incompletion until the second quarter, going 8-of-8 in the first quarter for 103 yards and a touchdown in the first. He slowed in the second, attempting only four passes, completing only one of them, and throwing an interception that cornerback Traye Simmons returned for six. But Kafka made up for it with his feet. He’s rushed nine times for 97 yards, including a 53 yard scramble that set up his second touchdown toss, a simple two yarder to Jeremy Ebert. -I expected this game to be low scoring with the way both teams have been playing defense this year. It hasn’t been the case so far. Minnesota has allowed 17.1 points per game to this point while Northwestern is giving up 18.2. But barring a complete defensive lockdown coupled with serious offensive meltdowns in the second half, those averages will be going up after today.
Happy day after Halloween Gophers fans. Minnesota has outdone itself this year, scheduling Homecoming on the same weekend as Halloween. Still, the tailgating lots are packed and, according to Coach Brew, the Dome should be nearly sold out today. Ah, the perks of 7-1. A few notes before we get underway here:
-Minnesota has been banged up this year; it has lost a running back for the season and its best cornerback was out for a couple weeks, not to mention the offensive line essentially being a game of musical chairs with all the injuries. Northwestern’s injury problems are worse. Just look at the Wildcats’ injury report:
LB Malcolm Arrington, knee, out (season)
RB Tyrell Sutton, wrist, out
WR Kevin Frymire, leg, out
G Keegan Grant, ankle, questionable
QB C.J. Bacher, hamstring, questionable
CB Justan Vaughn, shoulder, out (season)
DT Niko Mafuli, knee, out
LB Bryce McNaul, out, leg
DE Rejaie Johnson, shoulder, out (season)
TE/FB Drake Dunsmore, knee, out (season)
The names that stick out here are RB Tyrell Sutton and QB C.J. Bacher. According to espn.com’s Adam Rittenberg, Bacher will only be used in an emergency situation. Don’t expect the injuries to makes this game a cake walk, however. Northwestern lost a shocker to Indiana last week, so redemption is on the agenda.
-Look for freshman receiver Brandon Green to build off of last week’s breakout. He’ll be starting again in place of suspended Ralph Spry; another big game from him and I think he may remain the starter even when Spry returns.
-Last year these two teams combined for 97 points. That won’t be happening this time around.