In his junior year of 2012, Minnesota wide receiver Derrick Engel played in all 13 of the Golden Gophers’ games and only managed to catch 18 passes for 375 yards and a touchdown. Earlier in this his senior season, it appeared that Engel was headed for another subpar year. Through Minnesota’s first six games of the season, Engel had hauled in only 14 balls for 182 yards and a touchdown.
Something clicked for Engel three weeks ago. The last three weeks have been the most productive stretch of his career. If you combine his numbers at Northwestern, against Nebraska and at Indiana, you come up with totals that look like eight receptions for 179 yards and four touchdowns. Most importantly for the Golden Gophers, all three of those games have been wins.
Wondering whether it’s the improved play of the Minnesota team overall that has given Engel a boost, or that Engel’s increased production has been the cause of the Golden Gophers’ recent surge is like asking about the chicken or the egg. You can separate the two facts. Simultaneously, Minnesota has found a revived running game, running for 695 yards the past three weeks, and found an ability to stretch the field with Engel. The effects are synergistic.
It’s that offensive production that enabled Minnesota to outscore the yards and points machine that is Indiana this past Saturday, and that is something that the Golden Gophers will need to continue doing through the last three games of their regular season schedule. They have a home game against Penn State, which is followed by a visit from No. 24 Wisconsin and a trip to take on the No. 17 Michigan State Spartans.
While Minnesota does not control its destiny in the Big Ten Legends division, a 10-win season is still within their grasp if they can continue to execute well. They will need superb efforts from everyone on the field, especially Engel.