Minnesota vs Northwestern Preview

Saturday's game will be the 86th meeting between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Northwestern Wildcats. Minnesota leads this short series with a 50-30-5 record. Last season the Gophers traveled to Evanston, Ill. and beat the Wildcats 35-24. Saturday's game will cap off Homecoming festivities at Minnesota.

DATE: October 2, 2010

TIME: Saturday, 11 a.m. (CST)

SITE: Minneapolis, Minn.

STADIUM: TCF Bank Stadium

SERIES: Saturday's game will be the 86th meeting between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Northwestern Wildcats. Minnesota leads this short series with a 50-30-5 record. Last season the Gophers traveled to Evanston, Ill. and beat the Wildcats 35-24. Saturday's game will cap off Homecoming festivities at Minnesota.

RECORD: Minnesota (1-3, 0-0 Big Ten), Northwestern (4-0, 0-0 Big Ten)

PREDICTION: Minnesota 27-24

DEFENSIVE KEYS TO THE GAME:

Defensively, Minnesota will need to limit explosive plays, which they struggled to do last game, and contain dual-threat quarterback Dan Persa. The 6-foot-0 junior is vey effective as a runner and is also very efficient passing the ball. He leads all Division 1 (FBS and FCS) quarterbacks in completion percentage. "We're going to have to be very disciplined on defense, pocket integrity, keeping him in the pocket, trying to eliminate his ability, because in all four games that they've played so far this season, he's been the key to them keeping the ball," Brewster said. "And his gains in scramble situations, the quarterback as a runner, he's really caused a lot of problems for people. And so we're going to have to really do a good job there."

Persa isn't the only talented offensive player Minnesota must be wary of. Wide receiver Jeremy Ebert ranks second in the Big Ten and 36th nationally with 82.8 receiving yards per game. He is also tied for sixth in the conference in receptions per game (4.25). "He's a very savvy route runner, and they scheme to get him open, particularly in the vertical seams," Tim Brewster explained. "So we have to do a good job defensively against that."

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On defense, the key for the Wildcats will need to try and bottle up the Minnesota running backs like NIU did last week and slow down wide receiver MarQueis Gray. The Huskies held the Gophers to only 3.0 yards per carry last week and zero touchdowns and came away with the victory. Northwestern ranks 33rd in the nation in rush defense, holding opposing defenses to (111.26) yards per game. Minnesota will continually run the ball game even if they aren't sustaining any success so the Wildcats will be forced to play the run well from the opening kickoff.

Coach Brewster hinted this week that Gray will be a large part of the Gopher game plan this week and they may try to get the ball in his hands more often. Gray improves each week and has been the most consistent playmaker for the Minnesota offense. Northwestern is a very sound defensive football team that does a great job eliminating explosive plays but Gray will present a difficult challenge on Saturday.


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