GOLDEN MATCHUP: GOPHERS, BEARS SQUARE OFF SATURDAY
The Minnesota Golden Gophers host the No. 7/8 California Golden Bears at TCF Bank Stadium Saturday. Kickoff is set for 11:02 a.m. (CDT). California, which is ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press Poll and No. 8 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, will be the first ranked opponent to visit TCF Bank Stadium. The last time Minnesota faced a Top 10-ranked non-conference opponent was Sept. 22 at No. 8 Nebraska.
It’s the sixth meeting between California and Minnesota. The Golden Bears lead the series by a 3-2 count, including a 42-17 win in Berkeley in the last meeting, which took place on Sept. 9, 2006.
ESPN will televise the game. Dave Pasch will call the play-by-play with Bob Griese and Chris Spielman serving as the game analysts.
Minnesota has now won six consecutive regular-season games vs. non-conference opponents.
Minnesota has come from behind in both of its victories to open the 2009 season. The Gophers trailed Syracuse 20-14 at halftime and Air Force 10-3 in the fourth quarter.
The Gophers went undefeated (4-0) in non-conference play in 2008. It was the first time Minnesota won all its regular-season non-conference games since 2005, when the Gophers went 3-0.
The Gophers performed in front of a sellout crowd of 50,805 in their first game at TCF Bank Stadium last week.
Minnesota ranks No. 14 in the nation in net punting, with an average of 40.78 net yards per punt.
The Gophers have had the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week each of the first two weeks in 2009.
NOTHIN' BUT NET
Through the first two games of the season, Minnesota’s net punting average (punt yardage-minus return yards/touchbacks) ranks No. 14 in the nation. The Gophers’ net punting average is 40.78 yards per punt. Freshman punter Dan Orseske has hit nine punts. Only four of them have been returned and Minnesota opponents are averaging just 3.5 yards on those returns.
WEBER GRILLS UP RECORDS
Gopher quarterback Adam Weber continues to re-write the Minnesota record book. With 39 completions in the first two weeks of the season, Weber now holds the Gopher record for career completions. His total is 552. The previous record of 539 completions was held by Cory Sauter (1994-97). Weber set single-season records for passing yards (2,985), completions (258), attempts (449), touchdown passes (24) and total offensive yardage (3,512) in 2007. He now needs 1,323 yards to break the career mark for passing yardage (Bryan Cupito, 2003-06 - 7,446) and just 16 more touchdowns (Bryan Cupito, 2003-06 - 55) to break the career touchdown pass record.
DECK'S ALL HANDS
Senior wide receiver Eric Decker was a semi-finalist for the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver in 2008. For the second consecutive season, Decker set the Minnesota single-season record for receptions. He hauled in 67 passes in 2007 and smashed that record with 84 receptions last season. Decker became just the fourth Gopher receiver ever to compile a 1,000-yard season in 2008, finishing with 1,074 yards to rank No. 2 on the school single-season chart. Decker missed spring football in 2008 and 2009, while playing baseball for the Gophers. He batted .319 with 13 doubles, three triples and four home runs in just his second season of collegiate baseball. Decker was an all-tournament selection at the 2009 Big Ten Baseball Tournament and was drafted in the 27th round of the MLB Entry Draft.
CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER
Senior Cedric McKinley led all the Gophers’ defensive linemen with six total tackles, including one tackle-for-loss, in last week’s victory over Air Force. The total number of stops was a career-best performance for McKinley, who tallied just seven tackles in all of 2008. McKinley has matched his tackle total from last season in just two outings this season.
NATE'S GREAT NIGHT
Senior linebacker Nate Triplett has had back-to-back career-high tackle marks in the first two games of the season. His 17 total tackles, a 52-yard fumble return for a touchdown and a pass break-up were enough to earn him Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week. It’s the second such honor in as many weeks for the Gopher linebacking corps, as Lee Campbell won the award in Week One.
Junior placekicker Eric Ellestad made it look easy again this week. In his first collegiate contest at Syracuse, Ellestad hit a 26-yard field goal with 57 seconds remaining to force overtime and then hit a game-winning 35-yarder in the extra period. He scored the first points ever in TCF Bank Stadium last week with a first-quarter 35-yard field goal. Ellestad’s 39-yarder in the fourth iced the win over Air Force.