Gopher Football: Pass rush will be key to victory against SJSU


Sep 14, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner (7) runs with the ball past Western Illinois Leathernecks linebacker Kevin Kintzel (17) in the fourth quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers won 29-12. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The University of Minnesota Gophers will look to finish their non-conference schedule undefeated when they host the San Jose State Spartans on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.

The final game before conference play will be anything but a cakewalk for the Gophers. Instead, the matchup with the Mountain West opponent will be a measuring stick for how much Minnesota has improved since Jerry Kill took the helm at head coach three years ago.

The Spartans were a 11-2 last year and currently feature one of the most accurate quarterbacks in David Fales. The senior signal caller threw for 4,193 yards, 33 touchdowns and nine interceptions last year while completing 72.5 percent of his passes. NFL draft experts consider Fales as one of the top quarterbacks in next year’s draft.

The key for the Gophers this weekend will be stopping Fales. The Minnesota pass defense has done a solid job so far this year, but injuries have shaken up the depth chart to this point.

The secondary will have their hands full, so look for other aspects of the defense to disrupt the San Jose State offense. The Spartans don’t run the ball often, but if the Gophers are able to take the running game away completely, they can drop back into coverage and take away Fales’ options.

Because of Fales’ ability to make plays, Minnesota’s defensive line will need to play a big hand in providing a solid pass rush that will disrupt Fales’ rhythm in the pocket. In SJSU’s game against Stanford last week, Fales was sacked four times and threw for 216 yards, in large part due to the Cardinals’ pass rush. While the Gophers don’t have the overall talent on defense of Stanford, they do have Ra’Shede Hageman, who will look to continue his dominant play.

While the key to success will be on Minnesota’s defense, the offense has some question marks of its own.

It was announced that Mitch Leidner will get the start as Philip Nelson is out after suffering a hamstring injury last week against Western Illinois. Leidner played well against the Leathernecks, but now faces a strong Spartan defense.

Leidner will have help as both Berkley Edwards and Donnell Kirkwood will see time in the backfield. The two backs, combined with David Cobb and Rodrick Williams Jr., will give the Gophers a solid running attack that will take pressure off of the redshirt freshman.

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