Gophers ready to open things up
Minnesota opens Big Ten season at Penn State
MINNEAPOLIS -- Thanks to a soft non-conference schedule that allowed No. 24 Minnesota to average 46 points and nearly 300 yards rushing a game so far, Gophers quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq knows his team hasn't had to do much heavy lifting offensively.
"We haven't shown more than 25 percent of our stuff," he said of the Minnesota (4-0) offense, which heads into Saturday's Big Ten opener with Penn State (2-2) ranked second in the nation in scoring and rushing offense.
"It's not about what you show, but what you execute," Abdul-Khaliq said. "We could go down (to Penn State) with just four plays, but if we execute them really well over and over we'd have a chance to win the game."
While Abdul-Khaliq admits he wouldn't mind throwing the ball more, he might not have to. Penn State is allowing more than 200 rushing yards per game and got steamrolled on the ground in losses to Nebraska and Boston College. At the same time, the Nittany Lions are ranked fifth in the nation and first in the Big Ten against the pass.
"We've got the ability to open things up. But I don't know if I anticipate it (happening) or not," Gophers coach Glen Mason said. "Let's face it. If you can't stop the run, we're probably just going to run. I mean, that's OK with me. I think it's a thing of beauty. I don't think it's boring."
The Gophers have been anything but boring on the ground, averaging 5.4 yards a carry no matter who totes the football. The main back has been Marion Barber III, who leads Minnesota with 337 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Terry Jackson II, Thomas Tapeh and Laurence Maroney also have seen action, with each back averaging around 56 yards a game.
Even Abdul-Khaliq has gotten into the act on the ground, rushing for 104 yards and two touchdowns this season. In the meantime, he's averaged only 159 yards passing per game and has five touchdown passes in four games.
"We have great running backs there, guys who can get the job done at any point in the game. They all have the skills to make a big play at any time," Abdul-Khaliq said. "There isn't any reason why our running game shouldn't do pretty well against anybody."
With logic figuring that Penn State will be loading up defensively to try and stop the run, Abdul-Khaliq welcomes the chance to throw more.
"You have to know that some teams are going to try and stack up (against the run), and that's when you have to hurt them through the air," he said. "And that's on the quarterback to make the throws."