TIME: Saturday, 2:37 p.m. (CST)
SITE: Minneapolis, Minn.
STADIUM: TCF Bank Stadium
SERIES: Minnesota leads the series with a 2-0 record. The two teams last met 2007 when the Gophers won a thrilling three-overtime game, 41-35, at the Metrodome.
RECORD: Minnesota (0-2, 0-0 Big Ten), Miami (Ohio) (0-1, 0-0 MAC)
"I'm excited about playing Minnesota. I feel great about our defense." – Miami (Ohio) cornerback Dayonne Nunley.
"I think it helps from a personnel standpoint with having a new head coach and a new staff, them only playing one game. It's a little bit tough. We've been able to do our research. Personnel wise we've got a pretty good idea of them. We're relying on that and then some past history with some of their coaches." – Minnesota offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover on the familiarity with Miami (Ohio).
"I can tell you this. When we watched film on Sunday, it was awesome, how well film sessions go. Those kids want to do well. They worked their tails off. Asked questions. Hell, it's important to them. It's up to us as coaches to keep getting after them." – Minnesota defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys on the collective spirit of the football team.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- The key for the Gopher offense will be to establish a consistent rushing attack early to help take pressure of quarterback MarQueis Gray. In order to effectively run the ball, Minnesota will need better production from the three senior interior lineman. "You know, definitely not up to where they need to be," Limegrover said of the offensive line. "They're well aware of that. I think we're too inconsistent. The three seniors inside need to have that consistency.
-- If the Miami offense has learned anything by watching the Gopher defense on film it is that Minnesota is vulnerable in the first half. USC put all of their 19 points on the board in the first half while New Mexico State quarterback Andrew Manley torched the Gophers for 226 yards and three touchdowns in the first two quarters. If the Red Hawks want to come away with a victory on Saturday they will need to capitalize early openings in Minnesota's defense.
Defensively, the Red Hawks should look to replicate the defensive schemes employed by USC and NMSU. Miami should stack the box in order to limit the Gophers' rushing attack and force MarQueis Gray or Max Shortell to throw the ball. The Gopher running backs have combined for a total of 89 rushing yards in the past two games while Minnesota's quarterbacks have struggled to get a consistent passing game going. Miami will surely use this same strategy when they face off against the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium this Saturday.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
-- TE Eric Lair #85 – After being held to only one catch last week against New Mexico State, look for offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover to find ways to get the football in the tight ends hands. "We're going to keep working to make sure that Eric is part of what we're doing," Limegrover said.
-- QB MarQueis Gray #5 – After spending last season torching defenses as a wide receiver, the versatile Gray has yet to find his rhythm at quarterback this season but the Gophers' coaching staff sees improvement. "I think his decision making got better last week," Limegrover said. "We need to continue to do that and need to make sure as coaches that we're putting not just him but all of our guys who can make plays in the position to make those plays." Minnesota will need Gray to perform up to his athletic ability, to avoid an 0-3 start.
-- WR Chris Givens #17 – The Gophers will need to slow down Givens better than when he torched the Minnesota defense as a true freshman in 2007 for 114 and one touchdown on five receptions. The 6-foot-2, 203-pounder is already off to great start, notching a game-high seven receptions against Missouri.
-- QB Zac Dysert #4 – Offensively, the Red Hawks boast a high-powered offense led by quarterback Zac Dysert. Dysert has been very accurate so far this season, completing over 66% of his passes against Missouri. The 6-foot-4 quarterback will look to exploit the Gophers' pass defense that has given up nearly 300 yards per game through the air.
-- CB Dayonne Nunley #3 – Despite his small stature, 5-foot-8, 146-pound Nunley is an explosive athlete who was all over the field in Miami's only game this year. Against Missouri, Nunley recorded six tackles, one for a loss, and an interception. Nunley could have a big game against the Gophers.