Date/Time: Oct. 23, 2021 / 2:30 p.m. CT
Site: Minneapolis, Minn.
Stadium: Huntington Bank Stadium
Series Overall: Minnesota Trails 2-4
Streak: Minnesota Lost 1
Series in Minnesota: Series Tied 1-1
Streak: Minnesota Won 1
Last Meeting: Minnesota lost 45-44 (ot) at Maryland (10/30/20)
FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
1. Minnesota and Maryland meet for the seventh time on Saturday. The Golden Gophers trail 2-4 in the all-time series, including a 1-1 record in the series in Minneapolis. Minnesota fell 31-24 in the 2017 matchup in Minneapolis before prevailing 52-10 when the teams last met at Huntington Bank Stadium in 2019.
2. The Golden Gophers have one of the strongest rush defenses in the country, ranking sixth nationally and second in the Big Ten by allowing just 86.8 rushing yards per game this year. The national average for rushing yards per game through Oct. 16 is 164.6 yards per game and only one opponent has gone above 136 yards rushing this year. In fact, Minnesota had a two-game stretch of just 3 yards allowed (-19 at Colorado, 22 vs. Bowling Green). The -19 rushing yards allowed at Colorado on Sept. 18 are the fewest by any FBS team this year with the next fewest coming when Colorado State held South Dakota State to -9 on Sept. 3. The next closest involving two Power 5 teams came Oct. 16 when Alabama limited Mississippi State to -1 yard rushing. Minnesota is second nationally in fewest opponent rush attempts (167) and fifth in opponent rush yards (521).
3. The Minnesota defense came through in multiple big spots in Saturday’s 30-23 win over Nebraska. Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez, a 2,000-yard rusher in his career with seven games over 100 yards, was held to -17 rushing yards on eight carries. The -17 rushing yards were his fewest in 36 career games. In the fourth quarter, Esezi Otomewo forced Martinez to commit an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone in the fourth quarter, resulting in the first safety by Minnesota since Thomas Barber tackled a Miami (OH) player in the end zone in 2018. The defense also forced the Huskers to go 0-for-2 on fourth down conversions. The first stop was a 4th-and-goal at the Minnesota 1-yard line late in the third quarter, two drives later on a 4th-and-10 at the Minnesota 34-yard line with just over seven minutes left to play, Martinez was forced into an incompletion.
4. Senior WR Chris Autman-Bell is coming off a career-high 11 receptions for 103 yards against Nebraska, his third career 100-yard game. His reception total was the highest by a Gopher since Tyler Johnson had 12 vs. Auburn in the 2020 Outback Bowl and ranks tied for 10th in program single-game history. Autman-Bell, whose previous career high was five, caught nine passes for 100 yards and a score in the first half alone.
5. Minnesota’s 30-23 win over Nebraska Saturday marked the 30th victory for P.J. Fleck at Minnesota. Of the six coaches in program history to have reached that win total with the Gophers, only Henry L Williams (30-3-4) and Bernie Bierman (30-4-4) got there quicker than the 51 games it took Fleck. Fleck is 10th already in school history in games coached and sixth in wins. Fleck’s .588 win percentage is third best among the 11 Minnesota coaches with at least 45 games under their helm behind only Williams (.786, 1900-21) and Bierman (.716, 1932-41, ’45-50). In his ninth season as a college head coach, Fleck is 60-43 overall.
Gopher offensive lineman Conner Olson of Monticello will start for the 52nd time in his career, which will put him at the top of the list in program history. MNN sports director Mike Grimm spoke with Olson:
(info and photos courtesy of Gopher Sports)