The Nebraska Cornhuskers are set to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers this week. The Huskers last saw action two weeks ago as they disposed of a lowly Purdue Boilermakers team. The Gophers are red-hot after their upset victory a week ago in Illinois over a favored Northwestern Wildcats team.
Coach Bo Pelini’s visiting Huskers are the favorites this weekend, and the Gophers would like to do nothing more than to prove their skeptics wrong by getting a huge home victory. What can the Gophers do to crush the Huskers’ BCS hopes?
First of all, the Golden Gophers need to continue their defensive activity that was so successful in disrupting coach Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats offense a week ago. Activity is the key word for the Gophers’ defense. The Gophers are a swarming defense who use speed and confusion to harass opposing quarterbacks. This type of activity could prove effective against the Huskers’ offense.
Whichever way the Huskers coaching staff chooses to go with their quarterback situation, the Gophers can hope to exploit this position against Nebraska. With Taylor Martinez returning, there is an almost certain chance that the Huskers will be using at least two quarterbacks once again this weekend and a likely chance that Martinez, Tommy Armstrong and Ron Kellogg will be playing.
The sharing of practice reps will create confusion for the Huskers’ offense and perhaps provide the opportunity for some sacks for the talented Minnesota defensive line.
Also, the Golden Gophers would be well served to patiently await at least one turnover from Martinez. The senior quarterback has been turnover-prone throughout his career and coming off his first prolonged absence from the game, he may be more likely to make a costly mistake. One thing that Martinez does well is to recover his own fumbles. If Martinez makes a typical miscue, the Gophers must pounce on the opportunity.
Likewise, the Gophers must take care of the ball themselves, whether it is Mitch Leidner or Philip Nelson at quarterback. The Gophers need to keep the ball off of the ground and take care of it in the passing game. The Huskers feature a very opportunistic defense, especially in their secondary. For the Gophers to have a shot at a home victory over the Huskers, they must win the turnover game.
Finally, one of the biggest challenges for the Gophers is one that all Huskers opponents will face this season, and that is keeping the Huskers receiving corps in check. The Huskers feature a very deep and talented group of wide receivers. The offense may not be centered on their abilities, but opponents would be well served to make themselves aware of the presence of all three Huskers receivers on the field at all times.
The Gophers’ secondary cannot allow the likes of Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa, and Jamal Turner get behind them for an easy touchdown.