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NCAA Football Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern Without Key Players Against Minnesota

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Northwestern Wildcats will be playing host to the Minnesota Golden Gophers this weekend. What should we expect from two teams both desperately in need of a victory?

The Wildcats have lost three contributing players for this week’s game. But even of more impact to this weekend’s matchup is the fact that the Golden Gophers have been without their fearless leader Jerry Kill as he continues his ongoing bout with epilepsy.

The Wildcats will be without their speedster running back Venrik Mark.  The Wildcats’ offense has learned how to function without the standout rusher, but could really uses his reliability in their backfield as they continue to search for ways to diversify their offensive game plan.

Without Mark in the game, the Wildcats lose both their premier runner and a major home run threat as he has the potential to take it to the house on every play. Also, the Wildcats are without their All-Star athlete Kain Colter.  Colter is a jack of all trades for the Northwestern teams as he is likely to line up at quarterback, wide receiver and running back all in one game.

Without Colter and Mark Treyvon, Green will be asked to carry the bulk of the load rushing the ball for the Wildcats. Finally, the Wildcats’ defense will be without one of their premier run stoppers Sean McEvilly. The defensive tackle will be missed as the Gophers will be looking to run the ball against the Wildcats.

McEvilly’s absence may be the biggest blow to coach Pat Fitzgerald’s squad after the way the defense performed last week against the Wisconsin Badgers. The Wildcats had no response for the Badgers’ rushing attack and now without one of their starting defensive tackles, the Wildcats will be preparing to take on another opponent whose offensive attack is focused on rushing the ball.

The Minnesota Golden Gophers started off the season red hot, but have had struggles since Kill’s health issues arose. The Gophers have already made a switch at quarterback, but have yet to experience the results they so desperately want from their young but exciting offense.

The Gophers will try to establish a rushing attack with quarterback Mitch Leidner and running backs Roddrick Williams, Donnell Kirkwood and David Cobb.  The Gophers will use all three running backs in an attempt to wear down the Northwestern defense.

The defense for the Gophers has been a strong point this season. Minnesota boasts one of the better secondaries in the Big Ten behind possibly Nebraska and Ohio StateThe Gophers should be able to limit the passing attack of the Wildcats and possibly generate some pass rush with good downfield coverage.

This game will be won or loss in the short to intermediate passing attack from the Wildcats. The Wildcats will have their issues rushing the ball because of injuries and may struggle against the secondary of the Gophers. If the Wildcats can use a short passing game with quick slants and screens, they should be able to move the ball effectively and earn a win this weekend.