Rematch with San Jose State on tap

The matchup with the Spartans could be similar to last year’s game.

Jack Satzinger

The Gophers (2-1) close out their nonconference slate at home against San Jose State on Saturday. And with their starting quarterback hobbled, a speedy redshirt freshman may get his first career start under center.

The scene should sound familiar.

Minnesota finished its nonconference schedule last year against the Spartans, overpowering the visitors up front to win 43-24. With starting quarterback Philip Nelson sidelined due to injury, Mitch Leidner burst onto the scene, rushing for 151 yards and four touchdowns in his first collegiate debut, inciting a quarterback controversy.

Leidner has been “the guy” for Minnesota since Nelson transferred in January, and the Gophers have said the starting job is his if he’s healthy.

But if Leidner, battling a left knee injury and turf toe, can’t go Saturday, then redshirt freshman Chris Streveler is next in line to start.

Streveler has replaced Leidner during the final minutes of every game this season and was solid in a small sample size last week at TCU, completing two of three passes for 18 yards.

“As the No. 2 [quarterback], you never really know how you’re going to play,” Streveler said. “It was good to get out there and make a couple plays.”

San Jose State (1-1) has a new defensive coordinator in Greg Robinson. Though the team’s defense may not be exactly the same as last year’s, Streveler said it’s still helpful to look back on past film to see where the Gophers excelled.

“Coach Robinson, he had been in the National Football League. He’s been all over the place,” Gophers head coach Jerry Kill said. “They run 4-3 [defense], but they’ll line up in a lot of different variations.”

Junior receiver KJ Maye said the Gophers want to be “crisp and clean” on Saturday and build momentum heading into their Big Ten season.

“That’s the kind of game we need,” he said.

If Minnesota wants to beat San Jose State by double digits again, it will need to limit the Spartans’ strong passing attack.

The Spartans’ quarterback from last season, David Fales, threw for 294 yards in one half against Minnesota last season.

And his replacement, Blake Jurich, is no slouch. Jurich has 468 passing yards in two games this season.

“I think if I had to make a comparison, they’re probably very similar overall to Middle Tennessee [State],” Gophers defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said. “They do a little more true five-step [drop].”

If the Gophers call Streveler’s number, they’ll rely on the backup quarterback to lead the team to victory at one of the season’s turning points — just like Leidner did last year.

“Those guys both get a good amount of reps in practice. We’ve got a good idea of Chris’ vibe, and we’ve got good chemistry with him as well,” Maye said.