Gophers football vs. Rutgers: Keys to game, how to watch and who has edge

Minnesota looks to snap its 3-game losing streak to a team it has never lost to

Minnesota Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck leads his team onto the field Oct. 1, 2022, against Purdue at Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Minnesota Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck leads his team onto the field Oct. 1, 2022, against Purdue at Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press
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Rutgers at Minnesota

When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Huntington Bank Stadium
Weather: 60 degrees, sunny, 9 mph north wind
Betting favorite: Gophers, minus-14

Records: Minnesota (4-3, 1-3 Big Ten) has lost three straight games for the first time since 2018, including the most lopsided defeat, 45-17, at No. 16 Penn State last Saturday. Rutgers (4-3, 1-3) came back from 14-0 to earn its first Big Ten win of the year, 24-17, over Indiana (3-5, 1-4) last week.

History: The Gophers are 2-0 all-time vs. Rutgers, including 42-7 in Piscataway, New Jersey, in 2019. The connections between the coaching staffs are abundant, with P.J. Fleck crediting Rutgers’ Greg Schiano for helping set up his head-coaching career.

Key matchup: Gophers defensive line vs. Rutgers offensive line. Minnesota is last in the Big Ten with nine sacks and have only one player with double digits pressures (11 for backup DE Jah Joyner). Rutgers have given up 12 sacks, with former Minnesota guard Curtis Dunlap Jr. allowing a team-high 14 pressures.

Who has the edge?

Gophers offense vs. Rutgers defense: Former Gophers safeties coach Joe Harasymiak was promoted to defensive coordinator at Rutgers before this season. Along with the defensive-minded Schiano, the Scarlet Knights are seventh in the nation in total defense (283 yards per game). … “Very well coached,” Gophers offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca, another Schiano disciple, said Wednesday. “Very tough. They are playing great team defense. The sum of the 11, the whole is greater than the individual pieces.” … Look for talented CB Max Melton and Christian Braswell to play press man coverage until Minnesota wide receivers prove they can create separation and win contested catches. WR Dylan Wright is expected to return after missing Penn State due to disciplinary reasons. … S Avery Young (31 tackles) helps make it another strong secondary faced in back-to-back weeks. … QB Tanner Morgan has been in concussion protocol for a second week. If the sixth-year senior can’t play, Athan Kaliakmanis will make his second straight start. The redshirt freshman was poised in front of nearly 110,000 fans in the White Out game, but completed only 41% of his passes. … DE Aaron Lewis and Wesley Bailey have more than 23 pressures apiece, and Gophers tackles Aireontae Ersery and Quinn Carroll have had issues in pass protection. EDGE: Rutgers


Gophers defense vs. Rutgers offense: Schiano dismissed offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson on Oct. 9. Rutgers lags in many categories, including 102nd in points per game (23) and 126th in plays over 10 yards (25). … With Ninzio Campanile as interim OC, Rutgers freshman RB Samuel Brown V had 28 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown against a bad Indiana defense. … Rutgers has started four QBs, including four-star recruit Gavin Wimsatt, but lately it’s been Nebraska transfer Noah Vedral. He has completed 46% in the last two games, with one TD. … The Scarlet Knights targeted TE Johnny Langan 10 times vs. Indiana and he had five receptions. Penn State had a few explosive plays getting tight ends open against LB Mariano Sori-Marin. Gophers defensive coordinator Joe Rossi adjusted to that mid-game and expects Rutgers to have wrinkles tailored for them. … Rutgers’ No. 1 target, WR Aron Cruickshank, has team highs of 27 receptions and 355 yards. … Illinois targeted and had success on CB Justin Walley, but the sophomore was the Gophers' highest graded defender against Penn State, per Pro Football Focus College. He added an interception and a 37-yard return. … On pass rush, Rossi first wants DTs to create more pressure in a QB’s face, which will help DEs finish from the edge with sacks. EDGE: Gophers

Win marks 1st time Minnesota has won the Axe in consecutive years since 1993-94
Minnesota seeks 1st back-to-back wins over Badgers in nearly 30 years
Minnesota has now lost 7 straight against its border rival
Fleck in search of 1st victory over the Hawkeyes
Minnesota has lost 7 straight to Iowa and 17 of the last 21
The redshirt freshman has been on the field for 220 plays this season
Minnesota looking for its third-straight victory over the Wildcats
Gophers coach said he loves it at Minnesota and wants to continue building the program
Minnesota's win over Nebraska guaranteed the team a chance at bowl game
Freshman guard Mara Braun scored nine first-half points and finished with 18 points, six rebounds and four steals. Sophomore guard Katie Borowicz made 6 of 9 3-point attempts to finish with 16 points.

Special teams: Both teams have threats in the return game. Cruickshank, a Wisconsin transfer, has five career TDs (four kickoffs, one punt). Quentin Redding had a 92-yard return vs. Illinois. Rutgers gave up a kickoff return TD to Indiana. … Rutgers K Jude McAtamney has made 71% of field goals this year; Matthew Trickett has made 87%. EDGE: Gophers

Prediction: Overall, both defenses have been much better than their respective offenses this season. Hence, the 40.5 over/under points total for this game. With Brevyn Spann-Ford and Mo Ibrahim, Minnesota has a bit more on offense. Gophers 24-17

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