Gophers to continue with Rhoda as quarterback against Rutgers

Rhoda will start another game as Leidner is out with a concussion.

Redshirt junior quarterback Conor Rhoda passes the ball to redshirt freshman running back James Johannesson during the Gophers' Spring Game at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday.

Maddy Fox

Redshirt junior quarterback Conor Rhoda passes the ball to redshirt freshman running back James Johannesson during the Gophers' Spring Game at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday.

Mike Hendrickson

Minnesota only needed 15 pass attempts from replacement quarterback Conor Rhoda in order to win on the road against Maryland, and the team will look to him again Saturday against Rutgers.

Quarterback Mitch Leidner, who started the team’s first five games of the season, is still listed as out, and head coach Tracy Claeys said it will be hard for Leidner to play Saturday even if he is cleared before the game.

“We put a lot more on the quarterback’s plate now than what we have in the past,” Claeys said. “You need to practice, so I’m not saying that he won’t [play], but I think it’s extremely difficult for that.”

Rhoda said Leidner congratulated him after his performance in the Maryland game. Leidner was mostly worried about the team getting back on track after the two losses to Iowa and Maryland, Rhoda said.

In the likely event that Leidner does not play Saturday, Rhoda said he is preparing to start and believes the Maryland game was huge for gaining self-assurance.

“Showing our team that I can go out there and do it and we can win a Big Ten road game with me back there, just gives me a ton of confidence,” Rhoda said. “I know it gives the rest of the guys confidence in me, too, so it’s a huge help.”

The game against Rutgers will be the first home start for Rhoda, an Eagan, Minnesota native.

Luckily for him and the rest of the team, the homecoming matchup against the Scarlet Knights will be one of their easier games this season.

Rutgers is one of two teams in the Big Ten without a conference win. They have been outscored 160-7 in their last three games against No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Michigan and Illinois.

Claeys didn’t point to those three games, but instead talked about Rutgers’ game against Iowa, where the Scarlet Knights lost 14-7.

Minnesota lost to Iowa by the same score Oct. 8.

“You worry about yourself, and if you want to have an opportunity towards the end of the year, you got to play your best each and every Saturday,” Claeys said. “Have respect for your opponent. You prepare for them, and if you don’t, then something’s going to happen.”

Redshirt senior linebacker Nick Rallis said the Gophers’ game plan doesn’t change at all against Rutgers, despite their record.

“Rutgers has been struggling, but you don’t know if it’s the week they’re figuring it out,” Rallis said. “Maybe they just need to catch a groove. They have good players and everything like that, so we’re preparing like we normally do.”

The main part of Rutgers’ team that will be different from its last game will be its quarterback.

Redshirt junior quarterback Chris Laviano was benched Monday in favor of Giovanni Rescigno, a redshirt sophomore who will be making his first career start.

Claeys said Sunday that the team will be preparing for both quarterbacks.

“I think they’re trying to figure out what’s best for them,” Claeys said. “There will be a little bit unknown, but there’s still film of all the guys that they’re playing [at] quarterback.”

Notebook:

-Right tackle Jonah Pirsig remains out for the Rutgers game. Garrison Wright is listed in his place.

-Middle linebacker Cody Poock, who has missed the last two games against Iowa and Maryland, is no longer listed on the injury report. Claeys said Poock has been cleared to practice but he isn’t listed on the depth chart.

-Saturday’s game will be Minnesota’s 96th Homecoming game. It will also be the first-ever game between Minnesota and Rutgers.