Gophers prepare for showdown with Ohio State

The Buckeyes are up to No. 8 in this week’s Associated Press top 25 poll.

Grant Donald

After the Gophers’ dominating victory over Iowa last weekend, head coach Jerry Kill went home and watched Minnesota’s next opponent — Ohio State — with a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream at his side.

After the Buckeyes game and his ice cream were finished, Kill had trouble sleeping because of Ohio State’s impressive victory over reigning conference champion Michigan State.

“I knew [Ohio State] was pretty good, but they emphasized just how good they were [against Michigan State],” Kill said. “They were able to run the ball, throw it with accuracy and execute at a high level.”

Ohio State comes to Minneapolis ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press top 25 poll and is likely the Big Ten’s only team with a chance to make the inaugural College Football Playoff.

That opportunity would quickly vanish if the Gophers can find a way to upset the Buckeyes this weekend.

“We don’t see it as a spoiler role; we see it as an opportunity to win another game and get where we want to get,” senior running back David Cobb said. “If we spoil their chances and win, so be it.”

Earlier in the season, TCU — now No. 5 — dominated the Gophers from start to finish.

The Gophers had five turnovers in that contest, something Kill said has to change if the Gophers are going to beat the Buckeyes.

“[Ohio State] has unbelievable athletes, and if we turn the ball over five times, it is going to be a long, long, long day,” Kill said. “Are we better equipped now? I’d like to think so.”

Kill said Minnesota suffered no injuries in last Saturday’s game against Iowa, something that has rarely happened and will help the team moving forward this week.

Freshmen stepping up on defense

Minnesota may have found one of its linebackers of the future in freshman Everett Williams.

Williams started in place of senior Damien Wilson, who sat out the first two series of the Iowa game because of what Kill dubbed “minor” disciplinary reasons.

He did a solid job replacing the Gophers’ leading tackler and impressed both Kill and defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys.

Claeys said Williams was not very highly recruited out of high school, but he is excited for what Williams’ future holds.

“There are quite a few kids out there like Everett that don’t get as high of praise,” Claeys said. “You’ve just got to be willing to put in the time and effort to find them.”

Defensive lineman Steven Richardson, another freshman, also impressed his coaches in the Iowa game.

Richardson recorded a sack and forced a fumble, prompting Claeys to call him “a rock” in the middle of the Gophers’ defense.

“The only reason [Richardson] is not playing at the so-called helmet schools is his height,” Claeys said. “We are very fortunate to have Steve at the University of Minnesota.”