Stout Gophers secondary to face pass-heavy Syracuse offense

Minnesota’s pass defense is statistically one of the best in the nation. So is Syracuse’s pass offense.

Samuel Gordon

Minnesota’s defense already has more interceptions in three games this year (5) than it did all of last year (4).

There will be plenty of opportunities for more Saturday.

The Gophers, ranked fifth nationally in opponent’s pass efficiency, will face one of the top statistical passing offenses in the nation.

Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib has passed for more than 300 yards in every game this season, and his 1,139 passing yards rank second in the country.

“This is going to be a test game for us just to see how well [our defense is] going to do in our season,” Minnesota cornerback Troy Stoudermire said.

Gophers head coach Jerry Kill said the Orange’s vertical passing game is something his defense hasn’t seen this season.

Nevada-Las Vegas and New Hampshire didn’t throw many deep passes, and Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder was wildly inaccurate in his attempts to find receivers downfield.

Orange receivers Marcus Sales, Prince-Tyson Gulley and Jeremiah Kobena have all had receptions of more than 40 yards. So Minnesota may need a complete effort from its defensive backfield to

So far, that hasn’t been a problem. Stoudermire said the Gophers’ safeties have been excellent this season, and their development has been critical in the defense’s success.

“I’ve been very impressed with our safety play,” he said. “They’ve done a great job getting us the calls throughout the motions. That’s their big job. It’s one of the most important jobs.”

Cornerback Michael Carter has impressed this season, too. Carter deflected three passes, made five tackles and had an interception in the Gophers’ win over WMU. Kill said it was Carter’s best game at Minnesota.

Syracuse (1-2) won its first game of the season last week — a 28-17 victory over Stony Brook. Big Ten foe Northwestern beat the Orange in a 42-41 nail-biter in week one.

Saturday’s tilt with Syracuse wraps up the Gophers’ nonconference schedule.


—Kill said Gophers defensive back Martez Shabazz probably won’t play Saturday with a dislocated toe.

—Minnesota beat Syracuse 23-20 in overtime in its 2009 season opener.

—Syracuse’s no-huddle offense averages one play every 21 seconds, about 10 seconds faster than the average team.

—Syracuse had lost seven straight games before beating Stony Brook last Saturday.