Gophers to butt heads with Rams

Minnesota will face a high-flying passing game in Saturday’s home opener.

Matt Perkins

In week one, Minnesota’s football team faced a Tulsa team that lost its quarterback early in the second quarter and ended up throwing just one completion that netted more than 20 yards.

This week the Gophers will have to contend with the air-it-out offense of Colorado State, led by quarterback Justin Holland.

Holland threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-28 loss to Colorado last week, but was intercepted four times.

Although Holland’s numbers are tough to decipher, all signs point to a Colorado State team that loves to throw the football. And coach Glen Mason doesn’t think that dropping back into coverage on the Rams will help.

“I don’t know; wait and see. When Colorado went to two-cover, and played coverage, Colorado State went right down the field on them.”

Mason said the physical play shown at Tulsa needs to be there every Saturday if they want to continue forcing turnovers.

“I think they go hand-in-hand,” Mason said. “It’s a hitting game. The more physical you are, there is a better chance that a ball is going to come out. The more pressure you are putting on people, causes it too.”

And putting pressure on the opposing quarterback could be key this week, as Colorado State’s passing attack is going to be harder on the secondary than Tulsa’s.

The Gophers accumulated just one sack against Tulsa. Colorado was able to sack Holland just once last week, instead allowing him to drive his team down field for a game-tying touchdown with 36 seconds left in regulation.

Minnesota linebacker Mike Sherels said they prepared for the passing attack by getting in better physical and mental shape.

“We’ve increased the conditioning level,” Sherels said. “We need to be in better shape, and better shape mentally.”

Another need touched on by both players and coaches was someone in the secondary to step up and lead their defensive backfield.

One player Mason hopes will lead the defense this year, especially this weekend against pass-oriented Colorado State, is junior strong safety Brandon Owens.

“I’ve pretty much played every position,” Owens said. “I played a little linebacker, safety, corner; I played some end versus Iowa last year. This is my most comfortable position because I know a lot about it. I played it for a long time in high school. Coverage is my strength, but I tackle well and bring some speed.”

Owens had an interception against Tulsa, but he also dropped one and deflected another in the hands of Tulsa’s Ryan Bugg for a touchdown.

But Owens understands the Gophers defense is going to make mistakes. They just have to get over them quickly and try to correct it on the next play.

“If I don’t make the play, I don’t hang my head,” Owens said. “I get right back up and do it again. You can’t dwell on dropped balls. You just have to keep putting yourself in the position to make plays.”