Gophers-Owls: Scouting the Matchups

Florida Atlantic is looking for a marquee win against an out-of-conference opponent, and the Minnesota Gophers will need to improve their defense to avoid a major upset. Get the strengths, weaknesses, players to watch and other notes from each team.

Minnesota at Florida Atlantic, Sept. 15 — The Gophers will play their second game ever in the state of Florida and their first during the regular season. The team cranked up the heat in its indoor practice facility this week to simulate the conditions in South Florida. Minnesota hammered Florida Atlantic 46-7 in their only meeting back in 2005.

The Owls need a marquee out-of-conference win, and if their defense can play up to par and the offense can avoid turnovers, it could happen this week.

MINNESOTA

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Most figured Minnesota's offense would struggle early on as it adjusted to the new spread attack, but that hasn't been the case. The Gophers rolled up 577 total yards and 28 first downs against the RedHawks using a balanced attack. They rushed for 306 yards, and freshman quarterback Adam Weber passed for 271 yards and four touchdowns.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Gophers rank among the nation's worst in total defense and passing defense. The secondary continues to be a major problem. The Gophers gave up 418 yards passing to Miami, one week after allowing 412 passing yards to Bowling Green. The coaching staff hopes to get more pressure from their front to take some of the pressure off the secondary.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Adam Weber — Redshirt freshman played like a veteran in only his second start last week. Weber completed 26 of 40 passes for 271 yards and four touchdowns, and also rushed for 97 yards and one touchdown to earn Big Ten offensive player of the week honors. It will be interesting to see how he handles his first road game.

CB Ryan Collado — The true freshman got tested throughout his first career start last week. Miami threw at him often and used a number of double moves by its receivers to see how he would respond. Collado gave up some big plays, but the coaching staff thinks he will be better this week because of that experience.

PR/KR Harold Howell — The true freshman from Jacksonville, Fla., won the Class 4A state titles in the 100 and 200 meter dashes as a senior. He hopes to have a big game on special teams in his return home.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm going to take a very aggressive approach to my play-calling and decision-making. If we can't make a fourth-and-1 (at) the 5-yard line, that was extremely disappointing. We didn't knock them off the ball up front. And we've got to have a tailback in that situation that, regardless of whether or not we block anybody, can go gain a yard. That is extremely bothersome." — Gophers coach Tim Brewster on his decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Miami 5 with his team leading 14-9 late in the first half. TB Amir Pinnix was stopped for no gain, giving Miami the ball.

ROSTER REPORT: The coaching staff was considering switching kickers after junior Jason Giannini missed three field goals last week, including a 26-yarder in the second overtime that nearly cost his team the game. Giannini has been extremely inconsistent throughout his career and might be replaced by Joel Monroe, who also handles kickoff duties.

Senior MLB Mike Sherels left the Miami game in the first half with a chest contusion. He was taken to the hospital for further evaluation, but coach Tim Brewster said Sherels was cleared to play at Florida International.

Sophomore WR Eric Decker had the best game of his career last week, posting career highs in catches (seven), receiving yards (128) and touchdown catches (2).

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm going to take a very aggressive approach to my play-calling and decision-making. If we can't make a fourth-and-1 (at) the 5-yard line, that was extremely disappointing. We didn't knock them off the ball up front. And we've got to have a tailback in that situation that, regardless of whether or not we block anybody, can go gain a yard. That is extremely bothersome." — Gophers coach Tim Brewster on his decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Miami 5 with his team leading 14-9 late in the first half. TB Amir Pinnix was stopped for no gain, giving Miami the ball.


FLORIDA ATLANTIC

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Owls took a step backward in a 42-6 loss at Oklahoma State last week. FAU had a very efficient game against Middle Tennessee in winning the opener 27-14. FAU must establish its running game, and sophomore quarterback Rusty Smith needs to improve.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Owls defense was dominant against Middle Tennessee, but obviously struggled against Oklahoma State. The run defense, which should be a strength, will be the key this week against Minnesota.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Rusty Smith — The sophomore had thrown for 320 yards and two touchdowns in two games. He doesn't have to try to win a game, but rather, he needs to run the offense and avoid costly mistakes.

LB Frantz Joseph — The junior leads FAU with 16 tackles through two games. He also has a team-high 3 1/2 tackles for losses, one sack and a fumble recovery.

DB Corey Small — The junior is second on the team with 11 tackles and also has one of the team's three interceptions.

ROSTER REPORT: Sophomore WR Avery Holley (leg injury) missed the second half against Middle Tennessee and didn't play against Oklahoma State.

Junior WR Frantz Simeon (academics) is out for the season.

Junior OT Brandon Jackson was expected to back up sophomore Lavoris Williams at left tackle this season, but he has started the first two games of the season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You've got to be able to stop them by committing seven to stop the run game and four to defend the pass. You've got to be able to mix it up and put your proper strength at the proper place at the proper time." — FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger, on facing Minnesota this week.


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