Gophers look for more balanced approach in home opener

John Hageman

ItâÄôs been 80 years since Minnesota football team played South Dakota, when six different Gophers rushed for a touchdown and 475 of their 507 yards came on the ground on the way to a 59-0 win. Tim Brewster would certainly welcome that kind of rushing game Saturday against the Coyotes in the home opener at TCF Bank Stadium under the teamâÄôs new âÄúidentityâÄù as a power-running team, but the coach reiterated this week that the team will have a more balanced offensive attack than in their opening game against Middle Tennessee State. The Gophers ran 67 times for 281 yards last Thursday while passing just 17 times for 150 yards. âÄúObviously, weâÄôre going to have to be more balanced as we move forward,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúWeâÄôre not going to be a 70-30 offensive football team. WeâÄôll continue to work on the passing game and get better there.âÄù The strong running game against the Blue Raiders last week gave the Gophers hope that their game plan will continue to work for the rest of the season, while it opens up the passing game for senior quarterback Adam Weber. Weber completed 10 of his 17 passes Thursday, making several big completions on the Gophers game-tying, 97-yard drive early in the fourth quarter . Weber said successful rushing like the Gophers had will open up the passing game. âÄúThe [defensive backs] have their backs turned trying to find the wide receivers, whereas when weâÄôre passing and they know weâÄôre going to pass everythingâÄôs in front of them,âÄù Weber said. âÄúWhen you run the ball as well as we did in that last game, they have to respect that.âÄù Weber was able to get himself back on track after struggling early on the game with a few throws that missed their targets. His first completion came on his sixth attempt with just under two minutes left in the first quarter to tight end Eric Lair for 24 yards. âÄúI just made some easy plays complicated,âÄù Weber said. âÄúIt took a while, but towards the end of the game I felt more and more comfortable with the passing game and I feel like I got some of that nervousness of that first game out and now I can just go out there and play.âÄù For most of the game, however, the rushing game reigned supreme, and Brewster added that WeberâÄôs experience as a fourth-year starter was invaluable in managing the game and the clock. On the defensive side of the ball, inexperience was the norm as many Gophers were starting for the first time. The opening-game jitters might have gotten the best of them at some points, but Brewster is confident that the young defense will continue to progress. âÄúThereâÄôs kind of that understanding that, âÄòHey you know what? I made it through and I can do this,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúAnd theyâÄôll keep getting better as long as they continue to be a good student of the game.âÄù The Gophers will see a slightly different defense Saturday, with the Coyotes running primarily a three-four scheme, which center D.J. Burris said will require a little bit more communication and attentiveness on the part of the offensive linemen. The Coyotes are coming off a 38-7 loss at Central Florida, with Minnesota being the second of two Football Bowl Subdivision teams it will play this year. South Dakota will be the second member of the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) to play in TCF Bank Stadium, with South Dakota State almost managing to upset the Gophers last year but ultimately losing 16-13 . Junior running back Duane Bennett said hosting a FCS opponent wonâÄôt diminish the importance of the game for the Gophers. âÄúNot at all,âÄù Bennett said. âÄúWe know every team is going to line up and play, every team is going to come to come out and play the full 60 minutes. WeâÄôre not laying down for anybody.âÄù