The Call: San Jose State at Gophers

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 20, 2013 - 10:53 PM
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Gophers defenders are seen as a key this week.

Photo: MARLIN LEVISON Star Tribune,

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THE OPPONENT

San Jose State went 11-2 last year and has one of the top NFL quarterback prospects in the nation, in David Fales.

11 a.m., TCF Bank Stadium • TV: ESPN2 • Radio: 100.3-FM

Line: Gophers by 4 • Series: Tied 1-1

Gophers offense vs. Spartans defense

Quarterback Mitch Leidner likely makes his first college start with Philip Nelson questionable with a right hamstring injury. Running back Donnell Kirkwood returns from his sprained ankle injury, but Rodrick Williams and David Cobb likely will get most of the carries. Minnesota’s wide receivers remain suspect. In Week 1, San Jose State blanked Sacramento State 24-0, which defeated Southern Oregon last week 63-56.. Advantage: Spartans

Spartans offense vs. Gophers defense

Gophers coach Jerry Kill said Fales reminds him of a taller version of Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. San Jose State lost top receiver Noel Grigsby to an injury, but the Spartans are deep at that spot. San Jose State had just 35 yards rushing in a 34-13 loss to Stanford, one of the top defenses in the nation. Advantage: Gophers

Special teams

Gophers kicker Chris Hawthorne is 4-for-5 on field goal attempts, with a long of 45 yards. San Jose State kicker Austin Lopez is 20-for-20 since the start of last season — with a long of 45 yards. Marcus Jones, who has two TD returns for the Gophers, tweaked an ankle last week, neutralizing his impact. Advantage: Spartans

Intangibles

With a bye week last week, first-year San Jose State coach Ron Caragher had two weeks to prepare, but the early kickoff will feel like 9 a.m. for his players. The Gophers likely will get an early burst of crowd energy, with fans embracing Kill in his return to the sideline following last week’s seizure. Advantage: Gophers

Prediction

This feels a lot like last year’s Syracuse game for the Gophers, which was a 17-10 victory that completed a 4-0 nonconference run. Fales is even better than former Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, but Minnesota’s defense slows the Spartans just enough for another win.

 

Gophers 20

Spartans 19

NUMBERS TO KNOW

10

Tackles per game for Spartans linebacker Keith Smith.

 

15

Rushing TDs for the Gophers, who had 14 all of last year.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT …

Theiren Cockran

The Gophers’ DE leads the Big Ten with three sacks.

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