Minn. pass rush will try to put QBs on their backs

Minnesota is one of only eight schools in the country — and the only one in the Big Ten — without a sack this season.

Minn. pass rush will try to put QBs on their backs

Samuel Gordon

 

For two consecutive weeks, coaches, players and fans watched opposing quarterbacks pick apart the Minnesota secondary. The Gophers have not returned the favor.

The Gophers (0-2) finished dead last in the nation with only eight sacks in 2010, and through two games this season the defense has yet to tackle any quarterback for a loss. Thus, USCâÄôs Matt Barkley and New Mexico StateâÄôs Andrew Manley had enough time to read the defense, and a textbook, if they felt so inclined.

Minnesota is one of only eight schools in the country âÄî and the only one in the Big Ten âÄî without a sack this season.

âÄúYou have to be able to put pressure on the quarterback, because there’s too much space out there for guys to run around, [theyâÄôre] good athletes,âÄù GophersâÄô defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said.

As a result of the inability to get pressure from the defensive line, opposing passers have had field days against MinnesotaâÄôs secondary.

Barkley completed a school-record 34 passes against Minnesota in their Sept. 3 meeting and Manley completed his first 12 passes and threw a career-high three touchdown tosses last Saturday.

Claeys said his defense watched film from the Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl, which featured the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Michigan State Spartans.

AlabamaâÄôs defense sacked Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins four times and pressured him throughout the game, which resulted in a 49-7 victory for the Tide.

âÄúYou watch that game, there [are] receivers open, but the quarterback ain’t got time to throw it. He drops back and, bam, he’s on his back,âÄù Claeys said. âÄúThat’s why I emphasize how important the pass-rush is.âÄù

While a lot of the onus is on the pass-rush, senior safety Shady Salamon said the secondary needs to make some adjustments as well.

âÄúItâÄôs all the small details. [We need to] pay attention to the little things. I think if we do that, we can be very good,âÄù he said.

âÄúIf everybody comes out and does their job âÄî what they need to do, what the coaches tell us to do âÄî I think weâÄôll have a good chance.âÄù

Junior linebacker Mike Rallis, who is third on the team with 16 tackles, said the defensive unit in general needs to improve throughout the remainder of the season.

âÄúIt comes down to all 11 guys on defense. ThatâÄôs hard to see sometimes from an outside perspective,âÄù Rallis said.

âÄúThe D-Line compliments the linebackers who compliment the secondary and vice-versa. If everybodyâÄôs doing their job, weâÄôll get the stops we need.âÄù

Claeys also said that defensively, the Gophers are struggling to execute their base defense and have to take more chances as a result.

âÄúWeâÄôre having to blitz a little bit more than what I would really like to. You do need to put some pressure âĦ but it’s probably a little bit more than I’d like to right now,âÄù Claeys said. âÄúWe have to quit giving up the big play.âÄù

Head coach Jerry Kill still hasnâÄôt returned to the team. Claeys said that heâÄôd be shocked if Kill isnâÄôt back to coach the team Saturday. In the instance that Kill isnâÄôt back, Claeys and offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover would oversee SaturdayâÄôs game.