Gophers-Redhawks: Scouting the Matchups

After losing to Bowling Green in the opener, the Minnesota Gophers face another MAC team on Saturday, but this one is much different in its approach to offense. Find out which players are the keys to the game for both teams as the Gophers try to rebound against Miami-Ohio.

Miami (Ohio) vs. Minnesota, Sept. 8 — The Gophers should win against another MAC team, although they didn't accomplish that in their season-opening loss to Bowling Green. It will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments Minnesota makes, especially defensively. Coach Tim Brewster and his staff must find a way to keep opponents from taking advantage of the team's secondary. Miami does not spread the field with five wide receivers like Bowling Green did, so that's a start.

This is a tough spot for the RedHawks, who face an angry Gophers team that lost 32-31 in overtime to Bowling Green last week. Miami's defensive front must deal the Gophers' big offensive line and RB Amir Pinnix, who ran for 168 yards and scored three touchdowns against Bowling Green. The RedHawks need big performances from QB Mike Kokal and RB Brandon Murphy.

MINNESOTA SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Gophers unveiled their new spread offense, but the results looked familiar. They showed they are still a physical running team, finishing with 246 rushing yards and a 5.1-yard average. QB Adam Weber looked more comfortable in the second half and completed 15 of 31 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions in his debut.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The secondary continued to struggle, which is nothing new. After finishing 117th nationally in pass defense last season, the Gophers gave up 412 passing yards in the opener. Minnesota held Bowling Green to only three second-half points, but the Gophers did not force any turnovers.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Adam Weber — Redshirt freshman had a so-so debut as the starter. He looked tentative throwing the ball early but really settled in after halftime. His confidence should grow by the week as he gets more comfortable.

SS Dominique Barber — He had a critical pass defended in the fourth quarter that prevented a touchdown and kept his team in the game. The Gophers need the senior to be a leader in an otherwise suspect secondary.

LB Steve Davis — The former defensive end collected just one tackle in his first game since changing positions. The Gophers need him to be a playmaker, especially in blitz packages.

ROSTER REPORT: TE Jack Simmons has a toe injury and could be sidelined for several weeks. His replacement, Nick Tow-Arnett, had his first career reception against Bowling Green, a 56-yarder in the fourth quarter.

Kickoff specialist Joel Monroe had a strong debut. Even with kickoffs moved back five yards to the 30, Monroe averaged 67.8 yards on five kickoffs and had two touchbacks.

True freshman Ryan Collado has replaced senior Desi Steib as the starter at right cornerback.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There is no moral victory here whatsoever. The bottom line is, a little piece of me died (Sept. 1). A little piece of every player on this team had to die, because we lost a football game that I felt like we could have won." — Coach Tim Brewster after his team erased a 21-0 halftime deficit to force overtime.


SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: RB Brandon Murphy (123 yards, two TDs) led the way in the opener as Ball State dared the RedHawks to run. Look for QB Mike Kokal to rebound from a subpar performance now that Miami has established its ground game. Kokal will look for WR Dustin Woods (5 catches, 46 yards) and redshirt freshman WR Armand Robinson (4 catches, 33 yards).

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The RedHawks have a terrific linebacking corps led by Butkus Award candidate Joey Hudson, who plays in the middle. But it was LB Clayton Mullins (11 tackles) and LB Caleb Bostic (10 tackles) who really shined in the opener.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Brandon Murphy — The diminutive senior, who scored both touchdowns in Miami's 14-13 win over Ball State, is fully recovered from the ankle injury that slowed him last year. Expect another 100-yard outing.

QB Mike Kokal — The 6-foot-2 senior must be more productive if the RedHawks are to pull off the upset. Kokal hit 14 of 24 throws for 118 yards, with two interceptions, against Ball State. To be fair, Kokal is adjusting to the loss of Miami's all-time leading receiver, Ryne Robinson, who was a fourth-round NFL draft pick.

WR Armand Robinson — The redshirt freshman has a very bright future. In his first game after an impressive fall camp, he caught four balls for 33 yards.

ROSTER REPORT: Coach Shane Montgomery played 56 players out of his 65-man traveling squad in the opener. Sixteen players saw the first action of their college careers, including sophomore receiver Eugene Harris, whose 56-yard punt return set up the game-winning touchdown.

MLB Joey Hudson has been put on the Butkus Award watch list. He assisted on five tackles in the opener after making 97 tackles last year. He's one of three MAC linebackers on the 66-member watch list.

Sophomore LB Caleb Bostic had a coming-out party against Ball State, making 10 tackles and a key third-down stop inside the RedHawks 5-yard line.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We had a big opening season win but we've got a lot of improvements to make on both sides of the ball." — Coach Shane Montgomery said.

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