Gophers and Jackrabbits fighting for postseason dreams

Minnesota will look to avoid an upset to SDSU on Senior Day.

Football vs. Michigan State

Ian Larson

Football vs. Michigan State

Josh Katzenstein

Upon first look, the Gophers had a couple games that were written off as wins when they released their 2009 schedule. Senior night at home against South Dakota State was one of those. However, the Jackrabbits (7-2 overall, 6-1 Missouri Valley Conference) visit TCF Bank Stadium Saturday ranked 12th in the Football Championship Subdivision and could prove a more formidable opponent than originally thought for a Minnesota unit fresh off a home loss to now three-win Illinois. Both Minnesota (5-5 overall, 3-4 Big Ten) and South Dakota State are playing for their postseason dreams Saturday. For the Gophers, a sixth victory makes them bowl eligible and would prevent a Nov. 21 contest at Iowa from becoming a must-win. For the Jackrabbits, a win over a Football Bowl Subdivision squad would essentially lock them into an at-large bid for the FCS playoffs. Emotions are sure to run high as the Gophers send off 28 seniors , but the focus will have to be on the field as a solid Jackrabbits team visits Minnesota for the first time in 76 years. âÄúI think our players understand that South Dakota State is a really good football team, just like we knew that North Dakota State was a very good football team,âÄù Gophers head coach Tim Brewster said. In 2007, Minnesota fell to the Bison at the Metrodome, 27-21 during a 1-11 campaign . At the time, North Dakota State was a part of the FCS, so Minnesota will try not to rekindle the memories of that loss two seasons ago. Senior linebacker Simoni Lawrence said the Minnesota seniors will be pushing everyone this week to ensure that Minnesota blows by South Dakota State. âÄúWe donâÄôt want it to be a close game,âÄù Lawrence said. âÄúWe just want to play great football just to let everybody know that weâÄôre serious.âÄù To make it back to the win column and clinch what would likely be a December bowl game, the Gophers need to find some kind of offense in the first half, something they failed to do as they compiled just 101 yards in the first half last Saturday en route to a 28-7 deficit against Illinois. Three drives went for negative yards in the half. Junior quarterback Adam Weber finished the game with decent numbers in a furious attempt to mount a comeback, amassing 221 yards and throwing for a touchdown . However, whether his fault or the offensive lineâÄôs, Weber was sacked seven times. The Gophers made an inscrutable number of deep passes during the first half, which is something Weber said the Gophers will try to avoid on Saturday. âÄúGoing into this week learning from last week, weâÄôre just going to just try to establish the run and get some high percentage passes as we continue to flow and create some momentum,âÄù he said. âÄúThen weâÄôll take our shots down the field.âÄù Whatever the game-plan, Weber, who was also at the helm for the Gophers during their 2007 loss to the Bison, knows that the entire team will need to play well to become bowl eligible. âÄúWe have to go out there and we have to play at a level that weâÄôre used to and that we believe that we can play at,âÄù Weber said. âÄúIf we do that, we feel very confident about this game, but if we donâÄôt go out there and execute, anything can happen.âÄù