Gophers defensive coordinator Joe Rossi took in practice at TCF Bank Stadium on Wednesday sporting a unique fashion choice — athletic tights under basketball shorts.
“I had to make a statement,” Rossi said. “I didn’t want to go all bundled up out there.”
Gloves and a hat would have to be enough to keep the chill away, though Rossi said defensive line coach Jim Panagos wore no tights under his shorts and wouldn’t even put his hands in his pockets.
After eight inches of snow fell on Minneapolis overnight, the Gophers used the opportunity to practice outside in the elements ahead of Saturday’s game against Wisconsin. Weather forecasts predict another couple inches to accumulate throughout Friday and Saturday with highs in the 30s for the game.
“Would I love for it to be 45 and sunny on Saturday? Yeah, that’d be great,” Gophers offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca said. “But I’m not worried about it.”
The Gophers on Twitter called for extra help clearing the snow from TCF Bank Stadium in time for Wednesday’s practice, especially necessary since the campus shut down most operations Wednesday because of the snow. Rossi recalled when he coached at the Division III level when the team wasn’t able to clear the field so quickly, which made for an “interesting” game.
Rossi said snow can affect offenses, which in turn impacts defenses. For example, any kind of precipitation can limit the passing game, making the run the focus. That’s especially challenging considering the Badgers boast Jonathan Taylor, whom Gophers defensive end Winston DeLattiboudere said is arguably the best running back in college football. Snow can also inhibit players from finding solid footing, which can hinder their coverage.
Rossi and Ciarrocca will call the game from the warm press box. But players such as running back Mohamed Ibrahim will brave the elements. In the last snowy game at TCF Bank Stadium, Ibrahim scored three touchdowns in the 34-7 victory against Nebraska on Oct. 12.
“Ball-carriers have the advantage,” Ibrahim said. “When they get cold, the defenses don’t like to tackle.”
The Badgers could be without two key players Saturday, cornerback Faion Hicks and left tackle Cole Van Lanen. Both starters have head injuries, with Hicks leaving this past weekend’s game against Purdue early and Van Lanen sitting it out entirely. Starting safety Collin Wilder will also miss the first half of the Gophers game after a targeting ejection against Purdue. Nose tackle Bryson Williams will not play in his third game because of a leg injury.
Ciarrocca said “everything” about Wisconsin’s defense worries him, as the unit is well-coached and runs an “outstanding” scheme. Rossi said his goal is just to hold Wisconsin’s run game to below its average 250.4 yards per game.
“They’re extremely dominant,” DeLattiboudere said. “Up front, you see all those offensive linemen working in coordinates, working together and coming straight downhill and just crushing dudes. Then they have tight ends who aren’t scared to get their hands dirty. … They’re going to come at you. They’re not going to think twice about it.”
Ciarrocca a semifinalist
Ciarrocca is on of 15 semifinalists for the Broyles Award, given annually to the top assistant coach in the country. This season under Ciarrocca, the Gophers have two 1,000-yard receivers in Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman and one 1,000-yard rusher in Rodney Smith. Quarterback Tanner Morgan has also set the single-season team record with 26 touchdown passes. The Gophers average 35.9 points per game.