Running Game Key For Minnesota Golden Gophers In Meineke Car Care Bowl

By Rick Stavig
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-6) have their hands full in the 2012 Meineke Car Care Bowl.

You betcha, as they’d say in Minneapolis.

Granted, the Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-5) have undergone a slightly tumultuous couple of weeks with the whole Tommy Tuberville fiasco.  So there’s certainly a chance the Raiders don’t have their heads on and are still recovering from the shock of their coach abandoning them in the middle of the night.

But they still have the number two ranked passing offense (361 yards per game) in the entire country.

They still have Seth Doege and his 3,934 passing yards and 38 touchdowns.

They still have Eric Ward and Darrin Moore looking to build upon their combined 156 receptions for 1,922 yards and 24 touchdowns.

And yes, they’ve found their future head coach.

So it’s safe to say the Raiders will be a handful for the Gophers.

After reading all of that, you must think it’ll be impossible for the Gophers to even make it close, nonetheless win.  But they can.  The Gophers can beat the Raiders in this game.  The key?  The Gophers rushing attack.

Jerry Kill’s Gophers truly need to have a strong running game if they want to have a chance.  The more time that the Gophers are pounding the rock, the less time Doege and co. will have to play their video game-like offense.   The less points scored in the game, the better.

Donnell Kirkwood will be the primary force in the Gophers ground game.  Kirkwood has quietly had a strong season, rushing for 849 yards and five touchdowns.  He’ll need at least a hundred or so tonight to keep the Gophers defense off the field and fresh against the explosive Raiders offense.

Let’s not underestimate the Gophers defense, however.

The Gophers are 11th in the country in passing defense at 178.5 yards allowed per game.  Defensive end D.L. Wilhite has 8.5 sacks this season and one or two more in this game would be huge.  Senior cornerback Michael Carter has had a strong season in the Gophers secondary with 16 passes defended.  He’ll have plenty of opportunities to add to that number in tonight’s game.

So who do I think will win tonight’s game?  Probably the Raiders.  But I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Gophers not only make a game of it, but win it.

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