Minnesota depending on the run to recapture jug

There aren’t any secrets when it comes to MinnesotaâÄôs running game. The Gophers are going to run the ball at the opponent, plain and simple. The phrase head coach Tim Brewster likes to use is âÄúhard-nosed.âÄù âÄúWeâÄôve got to be able to get a vertical running game going,âÄù he said. âÄúWeâÄôve got to be able to get the ball downhill in the running game.âÄù âÄúDownhillâÄù in this case means downfield, but unfortunately, for the last two weeks, downhill has better referred to the direction of MinnesotaâÄôs run game. With Michigan coming to the Metrodome at 11 a.m. Saturday , the Gophers need to find balance quickly. For Brewster, the target gain on a run play is four yards. âÄúHit them in the mouth,âÄù gain four yards. Against Northwestern a week ago, Minnesota averaged only 2.7 yards and sophomore quarterback Adam Weber led the team with 16 carries for 53 yards. With the run game stalling, Weber put the ball in the air 51 times. No balance, no second-half points, no win, and no surprise that Brewster said Tuesday that his team would be focusing on the run game all week before facing the Wolverines for the Little Brown Jug. âÄúItâÄôs a cumulative effort,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúThe coordination between the back and the O-line, itâÄôs all tied together. WeâÄôve just got to do a better job in all areas.âÄù Besides the obvious benefit of the running game opening up the passing game, making teams focus on true freshman running back DeLeon Eskridge a little more and junior wide receiver Eric Decker a little less would do wonders for the Gophers. As suspected, Big Ten teams have keyed on Decker, matching him up with their best defensive back and rolling double coverage to him with regularity. TheyâÄôve also been dealing him his fair share of hits, one of which resulted in a sprained ankle last week. Decker was visibly bothered by the injury but remained in the game and is expected to play this week. âÄúI think defenses are taking the âÄò[Michael] Jordan rulesâÄô approach to him,âÄù senior tight end Jack Simmons said. âÄúYou know, when you get a shot on him youâÄôve got to take it. WeâÄôve got to do a better job as other receivers at stepping up and making plays and trying to get some of the attention off Eric.âÄù TheyâÄôre certainly starting to. Against Northwestern, junior wide receiver Ben Kuznia grabbed seven catches for 98 yards and Weber spread his 31 completions around to seven different targets. The week before against Purdue, true freshman Brandon Green tallied 100 receiving yards in his first career start. But Weber said he knows Decker will still be a focus of opposing defenses. âÄúIf we distribute the ball a little bit more it might take a couple hits off him,âÄù Weber said. âÄúBut heâÄôs still going to get the shots.âÄù