Gophers' keys to the game

The Minnesota Gophers open their 2004 football season versus Toledo at the Metrodome. The Rockets are getting some notice by pollsters who rank them among the Top 25 teams in the country. A Gopher win could be the start of a January 1 bowl season. However, a loss to the pesky Rockets could lead to a smaller bowl game. The Gophers need to do a few key things to ensure that they start the season on the right track.

Keys to the game


Stop the Toledo running game

Toledo passed for 3,339 yards last season, but also showed good balance as they rushed for 2,214 yards. However, the Rockets were just 1-3 in games that they rushed for 120 or fewer yards last season. The Rockets rushed for 94 yards in their 28-18 opening-game loss at UNLV, 90 yards in 35-31 upset win over then #9 Pittsburgh, 76 yards in 34-7 loss to Syracuse and 120 yards in 38-14 loss at Ball State.


Use Dome Field advantage

The Rockets were just 2-4 on the road last season and lost by 10, 27, 24 and eight points away from home. The Gophers need to jump out to an early lead and pound the ball on the smaller Toledo defense. The Rockets use a 4-2-5 defense with their defensive ends weighing just 254 and 225, respectively. Their two defensive tackles are redshirt freshmen who are playing in their first college game.


Take the pressure off Cupito

Bryan Cupito is starting his first college game, so look for the Gophers to utilize their outstanding running game to ease him into the action. The Gophers return Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber, who both rushed for over 1,000 yards last season. Head coach Glen Mason has also been high on redshirt freshman Amir Pinnix and true freshman Gary Russell, who could also see action. Look for the Gophers to attempt to reach the 300-yard mark in rushing in the season opener.

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