FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
1. Minnesota travels to Illinois this Saturday for a meeting with the Illini. The Gophers lead the all-time series between the schools with a record of 36-29-3 and have won 11 of the last 15 meetings dating back to 1996. The Gophers posted a 32-23 home last season after dropping a 28-24 road decision in 2014. Last year, Shannon Brooks led the Gophers to victory as he rushed 17 times for 174 yards and three touchdowns. The 174 yards by Brooks were 10th most ever by a Minnesota freshman running back and his three touchdowns covered 75, 38 and five yards.
2. Saturday’s game against the Illini will be Minnesota’s sixth 11 a.m. game this year and the fifth consecutive for the Gophers. Minnesota, which is 5-2 overall, is 4-1 in 11 a.m. games this season (wins against Indiana State, Colorado State, Maryland and Rutgers; loss was to Iowa) and is 15-5 in its last 20 games that have started at 11 a.m. (start of the 2013 season).
3. The Minnesota defense has allowed only 44 points in the first half this season and 28 of those came in non-conference action (14 vs. Oregon State and 7 against Indiana State and Colorado State). The Gophers have allowed only one touchdown (to Rutgers) in the first half of a Big Ten game this year and have allowed only 16 points (3 to Penn State, 3 to Iowa, 0 to Maryland and 10 to Rutgers) in the first half of their four conference games. Minnesota allowed one touchdown in consecutive games against Iowa and Maryland earlier this season. The last time Minnesota allowed one touchdown in consecutive Big Ten games was 2003, when it beat Illinois 35-10 and Indiana 55-7. Minnesota allows 22.9 points against this season, which ranks 38th in the nation.
4. The Gophers have a penchant for scoring in the final minutes of the first half or of the game this year. Minnesota has scored 217 points this season and 39 (3 TDs, 3 PATs and 6 FGs) of those (17.9% of total season points) have come in the finals 91 seconds of the first half or of the game. Minnesota has scored points under these circumstances in nine quarters and registered points at the end of both halves against Oregon State, Penn State and Maryland and at the end of the first half against Indiana State and Colorado State. Minnesota kicked a game-winning 28-yard field goal against Rutgers with six seconds left last week.
5. Rodney Smith leads the Big Ten with an average of 143.0 all-purpose yards per game. He had 257 (111 rush, 27 receiving and 119 kick return) against Rutgers, which was the 12th most in school history and most since Troy Stoudermire had 290 against Iowa in 2008. Smith’s 257 yards are the most for a Gopher running back since Laurence Maroney had 258 against Wisconsin in 2005. Prior to Smith, the last Gopher to notch 200 all-purpose yards was David Cobb (233 at Michigan in 2014). Smith has four 100-yard rushing games this year and eight rushing touchdowns. His 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Rutgers was the first for a Gopher running back since Duane Bennett (96 yards) vs. Wisconsin in 2011.
MNN Sports Director Mike Grimm sat down with Rodney Smith on Tuesday:
(info courtesy of Gopher Sports)