Minnesota seeks to snap a three-game losing streak Saturday when the Golden Gophers host Rutgers in a Big Ten conference matchup in Minneapolis.
After a 4-0 start, including three wins against non-threatening nonconference opponents, Minnesota (4-3 overall, 1-3 in Big Ten) has lost three straight conference matchups. The Gophers have been without quarterback Tanner Morgan, who is dealing with a concussion, and could again turn to Athan Kaliakmanis should Morgan not clear protocol.
Morgan has progressed, but it’s too early to tell if he would be ready to return.
Kaliakmanis was a coveted recruit and showed flashes of what makes him an exciting piece of the future.
He gave the Minnesota offense a jolt of energy in a 45-17 loss at Penn State last Saturday. Head coach P.J. Fleck said no one is happy about the last three games, but the team can either remain where it is or change.
“I think we have a very confident football team that needs to get back to playing confident,” Fleck said. “But that’s earned as well.”
He added that the Minnesota pass rush has not fared well (nine sacks) and the pass defense has to improve.
On the bright side, running back Mohamed Ibrahim has totaled 796 yards and 10 touchdowns and is averaging 5.9 yards per carry.
Rutgers (4-3, 1-3) picked up a 24-17 win over Indiana at home last Saturday as Scarlet Knights running back Samuel Brown V ran for 101 yards.
Rutgers has a winning record through seven games for the first time since 2014. The program is sixth in the nation in rushing defense (87.4 yards per game) and seventh in total defense (283.9 yards per game).
On special teams, Rutgers leads the Big Ten and is third in the country with four blocked kicks. Offensively, the Scarlet Knights have had 12 players score at least one touchdown.
Fleck and Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano worked together in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012, when Fleck was on head coach Schiano’s staff.
“I knew probably a day into his time (there) that he was going to be a head coach,” Schiano said of Fleck.
Rutgers has averaged just 11 points per game in its three losses. The Knights could start Noah Vedral, Gavin Wimsatt or Evan Simon at quarterback against Minnesota.
–Field Level Media