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“The Watchers” is a film adaptation of the 2022 book of the same name by A.M. Shine.
Review: “The Watchers”
Published June 13, 2024

Minnesota’s secondary will determine Saturday’s outcome

The Gophers defense has a big task at hand as they face one of the best offenses in the country: the Michigan Wolverines.
Image by Amaya Battle
Goldy amps up the crowd prior to the coin toss for the Gopher homecoming football game on September 30, 2023.

Minnesota faces No. 2 Michigan at home Saturday night and the Gophers secondary will have its hands full.

On the season, the Gophers secondary fills five out of the top seven tacklers on the defense. Michigan’s run-heavy offensive style will test the efficiency of Minnesota’s secondary and their ability to move into position to make tackles.

Michigan’s Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards make up one of the best running back tandems in college football. With the backfield receiving help up front from Pro Football Focus’s highest-ranked offensive line in the nation, the Gophers will need the extra run support from the defensive backs.

Safety Jack Henderson, a transfer from Southeastern Louisiana University, has filled the hole this season left by former Gopher Jordan Howden, a safety known for his speed and willingness to offer run support. Henderson currently sits second on the team with 30 total tackles and recently recorded his second interception of the season against University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

During the postgame press conference, Henderson said the interception was meaningful.

“Yes, it definitely meant a lot to me, especially seeing some friends and family from back home that came up to see me,” Henderson said. “I was just dropping into [my] zone and I believe our [defensive] line got heavy pressure on the quarterback. He kinda just threw it as he was going down and I was just in my zone and I was able to grab it.” 

Through great coverage and his ability to make tackles in space, Henderson has become a crucial part of the Minnesota defense and a serious factor in this week’s matchup.

Safety Tyler Nubin has been outstanding, recording his third interception of the season on Saturday, tied for fourth most in the country. Additionally, Minnesota has seen solid defensive performances by cornerbacks Tre’Von Jones and Justin Walley and safety Darius Green.

Not only will the secondary’s run support be tested on Saturday, but Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy will test them through the air as well. The Wolverines have not utilized his arm much this season, with their defense holding every opposing team to single-digit scoring totals.

Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck said during a press conference Monday morning McCarthy is a team-oriented quarterback.

“He is very consistent in what he does. He’s an overachiever, an ultimate competitor, but not only that, he connects the football team,” Fleck said. “Every time you watch J.J. McCarthy talk to the media, he’s talking about someone else, talking about his teammates.”

Minnesota’s ability to make Michigan one-dimensional starts up front on the defensive line.

The group will attempt to limit Michigan’s rushing attack by utilizing their stout front seven, which will allow for defensive backs like Nubin, Walley and Henderson to make plays downfield.

During Wednesday’s press conference, defensive lineman Danny Striggow said the line’s identity will not change against Michigan and playing as a unit will be key.

“Our keystone is stopping the run in this defense, so I wouldn’t say the approach is necessarily different,” Striggow said. “We just know they’re very good at running the ball, so the details are being harped on even more this week.”

Minnesota’s strength on defense will be tested by a great offense this Saturday and players will have to make big-time plays to stick with an undefeated Michigan Wolverines squad.

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