D.L. Wilhite got some effective motivation last week, a boost that may have contributed to his second career sack. The catalyst? Anthony Jacobs' first sack of the season.
"Man, I hated that he got one before me," the junior defensive end joked. "I always feel like I should get every single one, so ... "
So he's hoping to add to his total today against 6-2 Michigan State, in the bright sunshine and 50-degree temperatures of Spartan Stadium, and do it before any of his teammates.
Wilhite doesn't really mind that Jacobs, the senior from Northfield who now has 5.5 career sacks, or any of his teammates get to the quarterback first -- just as long as someone does. The 2-6 Gophers are last in the Big Ten with eight sacks, and Wilhite believes the Gophers are within reach of plenty more.
"It's been bittersweet this season," he said of his two sacks, one against Michigan's second-string line and last week's more crucial takedown of Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg, a 7-yard loss that contributed to a missed field goal. "Honestly, the total [number of sacks] should be way higher. For me, it feels good to get one, but the number should be five or six. I've got to get better at finishing."
Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins has been sacked 13 times this season, four of them last week at Nebraska, so the Gophers know it's possible. But Cousins has a reputation for quick decisions and getting rid of the ball, so it won't be easy.
"It's a big challenge for us, the entire month," he said of Minnesota's upcoming schedule, which includes Wisconsin's Russell Wilson next week. "We're playing some great quarterbacks. That's what makes it fun."
One pregame note: Jordan Wettstein is working on field-goal kicking, with Chris Hawthorne not on the field at the moment. Looks like the reigning Big Ten special teams player of the week will get his second career start.