The Call: Gophers vs. Western Illinois

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 13, 2013 - 8:42 PM

Gophers defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman should prove a handful for Western Illinois’ offensive line.

Photo: Richard Sennott,

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THE OPPONENT

After finishing 3-8 last year, Western Illinois hired former Minnesota Duluth coach Bob Nielson and is off to a 2-0 start.

11 a.m., TCF Bank Stadium • TV: BTN • Radio: 100.3 FM

Line: Gophers by 24 • Series: First meeting

Gophers offense vs. Leathernecks defense

With wins over Hampton and Division II Quincy, Western Illinois leads the nation with a plus-10 turnover margin. The Gophers have a plus-1 turnover margin. Philip Nelson has thrown one interception in each game, but otherwise the team has protected the ball. The Gophers rely heavily on the run, but Nelson should have more opportunities through the air this time. Advantage: Gophers

Leathernecks offense vs. Gophers defense

Gophers coach Jerry Kill said Western Illinois’ offense reminds him of Iowa’s. Nielson wants his teams to run the ball, and the Leathernecks have averaged 45 rushing attempts and 30.5 passing attempts per game. Redshirt freshman quarterback Trenton Norvell completed 24 of 34 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns last week against Quincy. Advantage: Gophers

Special teams

The Gophers have scored three special teams TDs, including a 98-yard-kickoff return and a 65-yard punt return from Marcus Jones. Chris Hawthorne is 4-for-5 on field goal attempts, with his lone miss coming from 50 yards. Western Illinois kicker Nathan Knuffman is 0-for-3 on FG attempts. Advantage: Gophers

Intangibles

With the early kickoff and an unheralded opponent, the Gophers will need to do their part to energize the crowd. For Western Illinois, this week and next week’s game at UNLV are chances to prove themselves before playing FCS opponents the rest of the way. Advantage: Leathernecks

Prediction

The Gophers defense picks the right day to have its best game of the young season. Minnesota’s offense finds it surprisingly hard to move the ball early, and Western Illinois takes advantage of two turnovers before the Gophers pull away in the second half.

Gophers 38

Leathernecks 10

 

 

NUMBERS TO KNOW

63.5

Average rushing yards allowed by Western Illinois’ defense.

 

281.5

Average rushing yards for the Gophers’ offense.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT …

Jamel Harbison

WR will see his first action since knee injury in last year’s opener.

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