Minnesota Gophers vs. Maryland Terrapins game preview

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 16: Head coach P.J. Fleck of the Minnesota Golden Gophers speaks with quarterback Conor Rhoda
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 16: Head coach P.J. Fleck of the Minnesota Golden Gophers speaks with quarterback Conor Rhoda /

After their bye week, the Minnesota Gophers are anxious to get back onto the field. They take their 3-0 record into TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday as they face the Maryland Terrapins.

Before Maryland lost to Cenral Florida this past weekend, it seemed as though this would be a match-up of Goliaths. The Minnesota Gophers with their stout top-five defense and Maryland with their extremely high-powered offense. It could still turn out to be a titanic clash, but some luster is lost now that their seems to be cracks in Maryland’s offensive armor.

The Terrapins original starting quarterback was Tyrrell Pigrome, but he tore his ACL in their game against Texas. Despite losing Pigrome, Maryland was able to beat nationally ranked Texas 51-41 in that game.

With back-up Kasim Hill under center, Maryland was able to easily take care of Towson 63-17. However, in last week’s 38-10 loss to Central Florida, Hill also went down with an apparent leg injury. Maryland’s worst fears were confirmed Tuesday as it was learned that Hill tore his ACL. From what we can tell, the Gophers will be going up against sophomore Max Bortenschlager on Saturday. None of this seems to be hindering the Gopher preparation as P.J. Fleck said in regards to the Maryland quarterback fiasco “Tom Brady was a backup once”.

All but two of Bortenschlager’s snaps this season  came in last week’s loss. He threw for 132 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions in Maryland’s loss to the Knights. He will now get the start against the Gophers daunting defense on Saturday.

Do not discredit the Terrapin offense simply because they are down to their third string quarterback though. The team still averages 41 points per game which is tied for 16th best in the entire country. Whatever they lost in their pass attack can be made up for on the ground. Maryland currently averages 224 yards per game on the ground, good for 29th in the nation.

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That is not taking place against slouches either. Besides Towson, both Texas and Central Florida are extremely tough opponents. With that being said, Maryland’s top rushing performance was against Towson, running for 367 yards.

Maryland’s talented running backs will be met with a Gopher defense that has been keen on stopping the ground game. They are the top run stopping team in the country statistically, only surrendering 59 yards per game. That will certainly be the Gopher game plan, especially with a third stringer under center for the Terrapins.

Even if Maryland decides to pass, the Gophers have been stingy in that department as well. Giving up only 180 yards per game. A hobbled Terrapin offense will have a very difficult time moving the ball against this Minnesota defense.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Gophers have been able to use their bye week to their advantage. Shannon Brooks should be back on the field after missing the Middle Tennessee game with a shoulder injury. Rodney Smith should also be back in action after being limited two weeks ago. The fully stacked Minnesota backfield is looking for a big day against a Maryland defense that surrenders a porous 149 rushing yards per game.

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Maryland has also been generous through the air to opponents. On average, they give up 254 pass yards a game. I’m sure Conor Rhoda was able to use this bye week to get more comfortable in the pocket and gain some chemistry with receivers. Minnesota’s primary offensive game plan focuses on the run, but I would like to see Rhoda get a few chances to make some throws too.

The Gophers will be without the services of cornerback Zo Craighton and wide receiver Melvin Holland on Saturday. Both were ruled out for the season after suffering leg injures in the win over Middle Tennessee State.

Minnesota will welcome the 1967 team that went 8-2 and 6-1 in the Big Ten under Murray Warmath on Saturday as well. The Gophers will be sporting some patriotic looking helmets come Saturday. If I had to guess, I think we’ll see maroon jerseys and white pants accompanying these slick things:

Before the official prediction, a Public Service Announcement, do not mess with Goldy:

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Ultimately, I do not trust this makeshift Maryland offense to produce enough firepower against the Gopher defense. Minnesota’s offense may have a field day on a team that gives up 32 points a game. Two weeks ago this would have been a more challenging choice, but now I like the Gophers to win.

Prediction: Gophers 34, Terrapins 13