Jerry Kill is entering his third season as head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers and looking to build on Minnesota’s 6-7 2012 campaign. While the Gophers did go bowling and put up an admirable fight against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, Minnesota won just two games after September 22 in 2012. For the team to take the next step and finish out a season strong, Kill and the Gophers will rely on their power running game to get the job done.
The Gophers offense wasn’t great last season, even on the ground. They finished ranked No. 68 in the country in rushing yards, averaging 151.9 yards per game. The team struggled as they hit their Big Ten schedule as they worked to find some kind of identity. They seemed to find it finally in their bowl game against the Red Raiders, rushing for 222 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 34-31 defeat.
In that defeat, however, Minnesota can take some important lessons. Against Tech, they showed off a power-run game that can translate to success for a team with a strong and experienced offensive line with a deep and talented backfield. They will be led by the return of junior Donnell Kirkwood at running back, who led the team in rushing a year ago as he handled the bulk of the carries, rushing 218 times for 925 yards and scoring six touchdowns.
He will be joined in the backfield by sophomore Rodrick Williams, Jr., who finished third on the team last year in rushing, gaining 261 yards on 57 carries and scoring a pair of touchdowns. He’ll be a nice complement to Kirkwood with a similar ability to gain the tough yardage between the tackles. Minnesota is also hoping that 2013 is finally the year that David Cobb makes the transition from practice field star to regular season contributor.
While Minnesota tries to figure out the rest of its offense, particularly the passing game, they have a strong running attack that can carry them through some early growing pains in 2013. Will they be enough to get the Gophers over the top in the Big Ten next fall?