Tough test awaits Gophers defense in Bloomington

Sarah Mitchell

Sometimes, it takes more than coaches words to change a team’s attitude. Sometimes, getting embarassed in front of seventy thousand fans is the greatest motivator of all.
David Gibbs knows this well. And that’s why he’s wary of heading to Bloomington to take on an Indiana Hoosier team with 58 reasons to play hard and absolutely nothing to lose.
The Gophers(5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) defensive coordinator said Minnesota’s 38-24, Big Ten opening loss at Purdue was the impetus forhis team’s turnaround.
“The Purdue game got us refocused, getting embarassed like that,” Gibbs said. “The kids have responded well.”
Gibbs’ troops have taken a stand since the loss to the Boilermakers, holding Illinois to 10 points, Penn State to 16 and Ohio State to 17 in the past three games — all Minnesota wins. But as the Gophers prepare to travel to Indiana Saturday, it’s hard for Gibbs to find comfort in the past three weeks.
Heismann trophy candidate Antwaan Randle El and a vicious Indiana offense loom just days away.
Minnesota faced an option offense much like the one the Hoosiers run earlier this season in a 23-17 defeat at the hands of Ohio. With Randle El calling the signals, Indiana’s offense is even more lethal than the Bobcats’.
In fact, Gibbs said the Indiana offense will be the defense’s biggest test of the season.
“We’re scared right now. Our defensive kids are scared,” Gibbs said. “We’ll have to play well to slow Indiana down.”
The Hoosiers have extra incentive to perform well on Saturday after an embarassing defeat of their own.
Heading into their game at Michigan last Saturday, the Hoosiers ranked 11th nationally in scoring with an average of 38.4 points per game. They were No. 6 in the nation in rushing yards, averaging 274 yards per game and eighth in total offense with 470.6 yards per game.
The Wolverines humiliated Indiana on both sides of the ball and won 58-0.
Gophers beware.
“It’s just like we were after the Purdue game. Everybody counted us out and we had our backs to the wall, so to speak, and we came out against Illinois and totally dominated Illinois,” Gibbs said.
“I think Indiana is capable of doing the same thing to us if we don’t go down there and match their intensity.
“I think they’re going to come out and play the best game they’ve played all year. I expect it to happen and our kids have to be ready for it or they’re going to get shot.”

Nystrom recognized
Gophers kicker Dan Nystrom was named the Big Ten’s co-special teams player of the week. Nystrom shared honors with Wisconsin punter Kevin Stemke.
Against the Buckeyes, Nystrom extended his consecutive field goals made streak to 10, connecting on all three of his field goal attempts (23, 32 and 42 yards). Nystrom also nailed two PATs and for the third consecutive week led Minnesota in scoring.
Minnesota has been moving the ball well during it’s winning streak, but has not fared well in the red zone, making the kicker especially important.
“He’s a big asset, being that we’re not getting the ball into the end zone,” Gopher coach Glen Mason said.

Sarah Mitchell covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]