Are you crazy? U thinks upset

Jeff Sherry

Thursday afternoon, while the rest of the Twin Cities was taking evasive measures to avoid the cold weather, the Gophers football team bundled up and headed outside.
With wind chills hovering just above zero, the team sprinted out the north door of its toasty-warm indoor practice facility. Some players let out loud yells. Others roared like wild animals.
“This is crazy,” offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse said. “We must be crazy.”
Earlier in the day, players and coaches provided what seemed like additional evidence to this theory. When asked about their mind-set entering this weekend’s game at No. 2 Ohio State, the response was automatic: The Gophers are confident they can beat the Buckeyes.
“Nobody (else) thinks we can upset the Buckeyes,” receiver Tutu Atwell said. “But we’ve got some confidence that we can.”
So, are the Gophers crazy? The numbers indicate they might be. Ohio State (7-0 overall, 4-0 in the Big Ten) has the league’s top-rated offense and defense, and the Gophers haven’t won a Big Ten game in 11 tries. The Buckeyes are favored by 35 points.
Coming on the heels of lopsided defeats to No. 9 Michigan and Michigan State, it would make sense for Minnesota to be looking forward to its final three games — just survive Ohio State, then face Wisconsin (3-4), Illinois (2-5), and Iowa (5-3).
“You don’t ever want to think that way,” Gophers coach Jim Wacker said. “You take them one at a time. Right now it’s Ohio State week, and I don’t want them thinking about anything else.
“You coach with confidence and get them to play with confidence. They’ve got to believe in themselves. They’ve got to believe in the system. They’ve got to believe in each other. If you do that, it gives you a chance.”
For Minnesota to truly have a chance, the team will need to play a complete game. Wacker keys to victory are: not turning the ball over, forcing turnovers, and getting inspired play from the offense, defense and special teams. The Gophers have not forced an opponent turnover in the last three games.
After winning its opening two games by a combined score of 142-7, however, Ohio State has shown some signs of vulnerability.
Purdue (2-5) played the Buckeyes even until halftime two weeks ago, and Ohio State only defeated Wisconsin by a score of 17-14.
“There are so many good coaches in this league, and they adjust to what you’re doing,” Buckeyes coach John Cooper said. “A lot of times now we’re facing eight or nine people up at the line of scrimmage and a lot of bump-and-run type coverage.
“We feel like we’re playing with a great deal of effort, but we’re not getting the same results that we did in the first two ballgames.”
If the Gophers plan to follow suit and load up the line of scrimmage on defense, they’ll need a big game from their secondary. Wacker said he wasn’t sure how much they’ll use that formation — his defensive backs struggled last week.
“It’s what you do (in the secondary) that determines how much you can do that, without getting killed,” Wacker said. “We’ll do some of that obviously — everyone does. But there’s always risk involved.”
The Gophers also think they’ve found some weaknesses in Ohio State’s secondary, but for Minnesota to pull off the upset, the team must mentally stabilize itself first.
“We’ve got to come together as a team,” Atwell said. “These past seven weeks, I don’t think we’ve been playing as a team and as a unit. That’s why we haven’t been able to cooperate and do the things we’re capable of doing.”