Indiana (227 yards) and Penn State (190 yards) both had success running against Minnesota, even though each team likes to pass. Now, here comes a Badgers team that ranks sixth in the nation in rushing, at 307.9 yards per game.
As usual, Wisconsin’s offensive line is filled with behemoths. Nobody in the interior starting five is shorter than 6-5 or lighter than 315 pounds. Right tackle Rob Havenstein is 6-8, 327. Center Dallas Lewallen is 6-6, 322.
This unit was a question mark coming into the season because the Badgers have had seven offensive linemen drafted in the past three years, including five in the first three rounds. But this line hasn’t missed a beat. The Badgers rank third in the Big Ten in fewest sacks allowed (12), and the running backs are finding plenty of holes.
Under Kill, the Gophers are determined to establish a power running game of their own and openly admit they hope to emulate Wisconsin’s success.
“I’m not going to lie to you, that’s the template,” offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said. “And I hope they take it as a compliment, that we’d like people to say, ‘Boy, Minnesota’s playing the way Wisconsin does.’
“Because last time I checked, they’ve been going to the Rose Bowl just about every year. And they’ve kind of become the standard bearer as far as a power, downhill, put-it-in-your-face football team. And that’s what we want to be.”
The Gophers listed wide receiver Derrick Engel as questionable on Thursday’s injury report. He’s listed as a possible punt returner but isn’t among the receivers on the two-deep roster for the Wisconsin game. Engel suffered a knee injury in Sunday’s practice.