Minnesota ready to face MAC opponent

Central Michigan is the first MAC team the Gophers will see ever in a bowl game.

Minnesota defensive back Eric Murray gives a thumbs up moments before a play on Sept. 3 at TCF Bank Stadium where the Gophers faced Texas Christian University.

Liam James Doyle, Daily File Photo

Minnesota defensive back Eric Murray gives a thumbs up moments before a play on Sept. 3 at TCF Bank Stadium where the Gophers faced Texas Christian University.

Mike Hendrickson

Minnesota won’t be playing a Power Five team in a bowl game this year, but that doesn’t mean the team is taking its matchup against Central Michigan in the Quick Lane Bowl lightly.
 
The Chippewas, who play in the Mid-American Conference, will be the third team from the conference the Gophers will face this season. Minnesota also played and defeated Kent State and Ohio early in the season at home.
 
The Gophers won the two games by three points each, so they’re wary of coming into the game overconfident.
 
“A lot of people sleep on the MAC teams, but that’s exactly what they want,” redshirt senior cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun said. “Trust me, we are not sleeping. We are coming in here like we are playing Ohio State.”
 
Before coming to Minnesota, head coach Tracy Claeys and most of the Gophers’ staff coached in the MAC for three seasons at Northern Illinois.
 
So Claeys understands the edge some of the teams from the conference play with when they face a Power Five school.
 
“MAC teams, especially when they get a chance to play Big Ten teams, they play awfully well,” Claeys said. “Those kids were told they weren’t good enough to play [in the Big Ten].”
 
The Chippewas were 0-3 against Power Five schools this season. The team lost 24-13 to Oklahoma State, 30-27 in overtime to Syracuse and 30-10 to No. 3 Michigan State.
 
Senior cornerback Eric Murray said he is excited for the matchup because MAC teams are known more for throwing the ball than Big Ten teams are.
 
Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush had the second-most passing yards and second-highest completion percentage this season in the MAC.
 
“He is very accurate,” Murray said. “He’ll put the ball on some people, so we’ll have to make our windows tight.”
 
Rush is also known for staying in the pocket as long as possible, Boddy-Calhoun said.
 
“He’s going to stay in there until the very last second,” Boddy-Calhoun said. “[If] pressure’s all in his face, he’s going to wait … then throw it.”
 
Both Claeys and Boddy-Calhoun compared Central Michigan to the team’s fourth opponent, Ohio.
 
Claeys said Ohio’s passing attack gave the Gophers trouble like Colorado State did in the team’s second game of the season. Minnesota also beat Colorado State by only three points.
 
“Both of those teams gave us some problems,” Claeys said. “We’re going to have to be ready and be prepared.
 
Central Michigan’s passing defense is just as good as their passing offense. They allowed the least passing yards per game in the MAC and were third in touchdowns allowed through the air.
 
To combat the Chippewas’ defense, the Gophers may have to turn to their running game.
 
“They’re going to bring a good challenge to us,” redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Leidner said. “I’m excited for the running backs and the [offensive] line and what they’ll open up for them.”