Gophers Preview – Minnesota vs. Texas Tech

Tyler Rushmeyer

HLast Week

Minnesota finished the season on a high note, concluding with a three-game winning streak over Big Ten opponents

MINNESOTA vs. TEXAS TECH

when: 7:05 p.m. December 29
where: Tempe, Ariz.
TV: NFL Network
Radio: WCCO-AM (830)

Indiana, Michigan State and border rival Iowa to finish at 6-6 overall and become bowl eligible. The Gophers finished sixth in the Big Ten.

Texas Tech won its final regular season game over Oklahoma State to finish with a .500 record in the conference at 4-4 and 7-5 overall. The Red Raiders finished fourth in the Big 12 south division.

How they Stack Up

Offense

Minnesota’s offense struggled at times during the season, but finished with impressive offensive stats at nearly 28 points and 370 yards per game. The Gophers are led by three seniors: quarterback Bryan Cupito, tight end Matt Spaeth and wide receiver Logan Payne, along with junior running back Amir Pinnix.

Texas Tech brings an explosive offense to the table, averaging nearly 32 points and 450 yards of offense per game. The Raiders are led by a dominant passing game that includes sophomore quarterback Graham Harrell and senior wide receivers Joel Filani and Robert Johnson.

Defense

Minnesota’s defense finished the season ranked 112th out of 119 teams in total defense, 113th against the pass and 95th against the rush. The Gophers gave up an average of nearly 25 points and 420 yards a contest.

Texas Tech’s defense finished the season ranked 44th in the nation, 75th against the rush and 24th against the pass. The Red Raiders gave up an average of nearly 24 points and 325 yards a game.

Special Teams

The Minnesota kicking game had two-thirds of its parts working well this year, as sophomore kicker Joel Monroe racked up 26 touchbacks and sophomore punter Justin Kucke averaged over 40 yards per kick. The place kicking game, however, has been ugly, as sophomore kicker Jason Giannini made just 7-of-12 field goals and 38-of-41 extra point attempts.

Texas Tech junior kicker Alex Trlica made 14-of-20 field goals while connecting on a perfect 45-of-45 extra point attempts on the season. Senior Alex Reyes’ 45.2 yards per punt was the highest regular season average at Texas Tech in 15 years, while senior kicker Keith Toogood racked up 37 touchbacks.

Players to Watch

Bryan Cupito
No. 3 senior quarterback

Cupito finished his regular season career as Minnesota’s all-time leading passer with 7,183 total yards. He needs just 40 yards in the game to set the Gophers’ single-season record. Cupito finished the season averaging 213 yards per game and threw 19 touchdowns while tossing eight interceptions.

Graham Harrell
No. 6 sophomore quarterback

Harrell attempted 562 passes on the season, completing 376 of them for a regular-season total of over 4,100 yards. He finished the season averaging 342 yards per game, throwing 36 touchdowns while tossing just 10 interceptions.

Thoughts on the Game

“We have a good football team. We rebounded. You’re either getting better or getting worse, and we think our football team is definitely getting better. We’ll have a great challenge against Texas Tech.” – Coach Glen Mason

“This selection is a credit to our team, coaching staff and fans for all of the hard work they put in this season, and we look forward to facing Minnesota.” – Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach