Gophers will try to stand up to Bears

Minnesota looks forward to battle with No. 8 California.

by Marco LaNave

Gophers football head coach Tim Brewster has waited for this moment and isnâÄôt about to back away. The moment comes in SaturdayâÄôs matchup with No. 8 California , the highest-ranked non-conference opponent the Gophers have faced in 19 seasons . âÄúThis is the stage that we want to be on at the University of Minnesota,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúWe want to play in meaningful, significant games.âÄù The Bears trampled Maryland and Eastern Washington in their first two games, but their visit to TCF Bank Stadium will be their first road contest of the season . In addition to scoring more than 50 points in each game, the California offense has had 16 plays go for at least 20 yards the past two weeks. Brewster said that success is based on personnel. âÄúItâÄôs not about plays, itâÄôs about players,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúItâÄôs not about schemes; itâÄôs about the players that execute those plays.âÄù Perhaps the best player on the field Saturday will be Bears junior tailback Jahvid Best , who was fifth in the nation last season with 1,580 rushing yards , and is in the Heisman Trophy discussion. Brewster compared Best to former Texas running back Ricky Williams, who won the Heisman Trophy in BrewsterâÄôs first year as an assistant coach with Texas. âÄúHeâÄôs got great speed,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúHeâÄôs a very multi-dimensional type of player, and heâÄôs a tremendous threat. YouâÄôve got to understand where heâÄôs at, at all times.âÄù Complementing Best are junior quarterback Kevin Riley , who leads the Pac-10 starters in passing efficiency , and sophomore tailback Shane Vereen , who has scored five total touchdowns . âÄúThey put their players in position to make plays,âÄù Gophers senior linebacker Lee Campbell said. âÄúThey try to exploit one-on-one matchups.âÄù MinnesotaâÄôs defense has allowed just one touchdown in its last 90 minutes of football , and will once again be vital to the Gophers chances on Saturday. âÄúItâÄôs going to take a solid effort from all 11 guys in our defense to stop them âÄî to stop all those guys,âÄù senior linebacker Nate Triplett said . After preparing for and stopping Air ForceâÄôs triple-option offense last week, the Gophers feel ready for their next challenge. âÄúI have extreme confidence, and especially, in our defense,âÄù Campbell said. âÄúI think we can play with the best in the country, and, you know, weâÄôll see if thatâÄôs true this weekend.âÄù It could help that the Gophers have faced mental and emotional, as well as physical, adversity in the first two weeks of the season. In the opener at Syracuse and in the emotionally charged atmosphere of the opening game at TCF Bank Stadium , Minnesota has seized two come-from-behind victories. âÄúTo go through some of those experiences has been really good for this football team,âÄù senior wide receiver Eric Decker said. Although Minnesota has been a resilient second-half team, junior quarterback Adam Weber said the offense will need earlier success against California, which has outscored its opponents 90-10 after the first quarter this season . âÄúWeâÄôve got to go out there and establish something,âÄù Weber said. âÄúWeâÄôve got to go out there that first couple drives and really focus on moving the ball.âÄù Brewster has said he wants more offensive consistency, but that might be difficult to find against the Bears, who have held opposing rushers to 2.1 yards per carry and have recorded 10 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss . Nevertheless, Brewster said he believes SaturdayâÄôs matchup can only be good for the Gophers. âÄúI think itâÄôs a real benefit to play a squad like CalâÄôs that you have so much respect for and that you know youâÄôre going to have to play your absolute best if you expect to be in the game with them,âÄù Brewster said. That attitude has caught on with the players as well. âÄúAs a competitor youâÄôve got to love this type of challenge,âÄù junior defensive back Kim Royston said. âÄúGoing against a Heisman Trophy candidate in Jahvid Best and the rest of their talented offense, you canâÄôt ask for much more.âÄù