Notebook: Minnesota vs. Indiana

Since the start of Big Ten play, the Gophers have lost four games in a row.

Linebacker Blake Cashman calls to his teammates on Saturday, Oct. 20 at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska defeated the Gophers with a final score of 53-28.

Jack Rodgers

Linebacker Blake Cashman calls to his teammates on Saturday, Oct. 20 at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska defeated the Gophers with a final score of 53-28.

Jack Warrick

Minnesota will play its first and only Friday game of the season this week against Indiana. Although they are common in the non-“Power Five” football conferences, the Friday games in conferences like the Big Ten have been a source of conflict among fans, coaches and players.

“I’m used to it as a head coach. I mean, I played in ‘MACtion,'” head coach P.J. Fleck said about his time coaching at Western Michigan, which is in the Mid-American Conference (MAC). “I think we have a really good plan based on the data we have on what we’ve done in the past.”

Fleck said he would prefer if the games were played on Saturdays as the Friday date affects attendance and interferes with local high school football games. The first round of high school playoff football in Minnesota starts this week.

“I’m a firm believer in ‘high school football is played on Fridays, college football is played on Saturday, NFL football is played on Sunday,'” Fleck said. “But I don’t run TV.”

The Gophers have one less day to game plan and heal up for Indiana — the team is coming off their fourth consecutive Big Ten loss this season to Nebraska.

“It’s one day earlier, but when it comes down to it, it’s just another football game,” said offensive lineman Conner Olson. 

This Friday football game is the first one played by Minnesota since December 2013, when the Gophers lost the Texas Bowl to Syracuse 21-17. It will be the first regular season Friday game since 2003, when Minnesota lost to Michigan at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome 38-35 with Glen Mason as head coach.

Shannon Brooks update:

Fleck said on Monday that Shannon Brooks was practicing with the team, but his situation on the team was “still evolving” due to the allegation of domestic assault of a male roommate, which he was jailed for on Sunday, Oct. 14.

“It’s good to always see a player as talented as he is, and who’s so special to our team up there again,” said linebacker Blake Cashman. “I don’t know what his status is going forward the rest of the season, but its always good to see him running around healthy.”

Fleck announced before the Nebraska game that Brooks was scheduled to return to the field on Saturday to play at Nebraska having recovered from the lower leg injury he suffered in the spring.

Brooks can play in four games this year without losing eligibility, due to new NCAA rules. The senior running back has tallied over 2,500 all-purpose yards in three seasons with the Gophers.

The Minneapolis city attorney’s office is expected to make a decision on whether to charge Brooks by the end of the week, the Pioneer Press reported.

Defensive woes:

The Gophers rank 10th out of 14 teams in the Big Ten in total defense. They have allowed an average of 397.7 yards per game to opposing offenses this year.

Against a then-winless Nebraska team, Minnesota’s defense was exposed through the air and on the ground. Minnesota gave up 276 passing yards and 383 rushing yards — good for a season-high 659 yards allowed. The defense gave up multiple chunk plays of 20-plus yards and missed 18 tackles in the loss.

“We got to tackle much better. I believe we missed 18 tackles,” said defensive coordinator Robb Smith. “It’s not what we do, it’s how we do it, and how we do things has to be better, and that’s how we’re going to improve. And that’s kind of been our focus this week: we want to tackle better, we want to execute better, and that’s our plan for this Friday.”