Gophers-Hoosiers: Scouting the Matchups

The Gophers believe they are improving in certain areas, but they are running up against a hot Indiana team that just got through with a big upset of Iowa with a smooth-running quarterback. Find out more about the players to watch in Saturday's showdown between Minnesota and Indiana.

Minnesota at Indiana, Oct. 6 – Do you like offense? This one figures to be a shootout. Both teams have the potential to move the ball up and down the field and put lots of points on the board. Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis is the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after his sensational performance in a 38-20 upset at Iowa. The Gophers hung 63 points on Indiana last season.

But these are two teams at opposite ends of the Big Ten. At 4-1 and feeling awfully good after a big win at Iowa, the Hoosiers will face the only Big Ten team with just one victory this year. The Gophers are improving defensively, but still allow entirely too many yards and points. Gophers coach Tim Brewster called these next three games — against Indiana, Northwestern and North Dakota State — as a critical stretch in his team's schedule. Minnesota is reeling, while Indiana is hot.


SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Gophers struggled to get anything going against Ohio State's vaunted defense last week. Freshman quarterback Adam Weber threw two more interceptions, including one at the goal line with his team trailing 14-7. Weber now has thrown 10 interceptions. That said, the Gophers exploded for 63 points and 541 yards against Indiana last year.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Gophers believe they made progress after "holding" Ohio State to 30 points and 459 yards. Indiana will present another huge test. Hoosiers quarterback Kellen Lewis is dangerous running and throwing the ball, and receiver James Hardy is averaging 20 yards per catch. The Gophers cannot allow Lewis to beat them with his feet when the play breaks down.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: TB Duane Bennett — The true freshman made his first career start last week against Ohio State and managed to survive. Although he rushed for only 34 yards on 16 carries, Bennett showed no signs of big-game nerves and kept getting up after every big hit. He also caught four passes for 39 yards.

QB Adam Weber — Freshman continues to alternate between good and bad moments. His interception near the goal line late in the first half last week was a killer. But he also showed poise against Ohio State's physical defense. Weber will have to lead the Gophers to touchdowns this week to match Indiana's offense.

LB John Shevlin — The senior weakside linebacker had his best game of the season last week, which should give him some confidence. He had a team-high nine tackles (one for a loss) with a forced fumble and fumble recovery. He will need to be active in pass coverage this week against Indiana's pass game.

P Justin Kucek — He helped change field position last week by averaging 44.7 yards on nine punts, including placing three inside the 20-yard line.

ROSTER REPORT: SLB Steve Davis missed the Ohio State game with a foot injury. He is available this week but listed as a backup. His replacement, Deon Hightower, filled in and collected seven tackles, including one for a loss.

TB Duane Bennett will continue to start in place of senior Amir Pinnix, who is battling a turf-toe injury. Pinnix also lost two critical fumbles in non-conference games, leading to his demotion.

TE Jack Simmons is still bothered by a stress fracture in his right foot but is able to play. Simmons, who is limited in practice all week, caught three passes for 20 yards last week.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're definitely making progress, but I'm a senior and my time here is running short." — Senior wide receiver Ernie Wheelwright, on the team's 1-4 record.


SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The running game continues to struggle when needed most, but the rest of the offense continues to sparkle. Indiana is second in the Big Ten (23rd in the country) in scoring, averaging 37 points per game. Lewis is second in the conference with 14 touchdown passes and WR James Hardy averages a touchdown every 2.9 catches.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The remarkable turnaround continued with nine sacks against Iowa, giving the Hoosiers a conference-best 27 sacks for the season. Jammie Kirlew had 3 1/2 sacks and Greg Middleton had 2 1/2 for an Indiana defense playing with the most confidence it's had in years.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Kellen Lewis — Named the Big Ten's Offensive Player of the Week for the second time in five games, and with good reason. His 71-yard touchdown run against Iowa, after picking up the fumble, illustrated the type of speed burst he possesses. Lewis is one of the most electrifying players in the conference and one Minnesota can't answer.

DE Greg Middleton — His 2 1/2 sacks against Iowa give him 7 1/2 for the year, tops in the Big Ten.

WR James Hardy — He doesn't have the most yards or the most touchdown catches in the Big Ten, but he catches a touchdown once every 2.9 receptions. It's tough to do much better than that.

ROSTER REPORT: WR James Bailey is expected to return following his one-game suspension for breaking an unidentified team rule.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our kids are getting better and they work at it, and I think the fact that (co-defensive coordinator) Brian George can rotate so many guys in and keep fresh guys in the game is really important. As long as they play hard and keep chasing the quarterback, he's going to keep playing them." — Coach Bill Lynch, on the success of Indiana's defense pressuring the quarterback.

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