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Like many teams in this bowl season, West Virginia won’t have all of its best players at its disposal. For instance, running back Leddie Brown – formerly known as the baddest man in Morgantown – has announced he won’t play in the game to prepare for the NFL draft.
He was the Mountaineers’ best weapon – he ran for 1,065 yards and 13 touchdowns – but now Tony Mathis will have to step up in his place. It’s not as if Mathis has no experience, he ran for 118 yards in the season finale against Kansas, however, he’s still searching for his first touchdown.
West Virginia should have its quarterback, senior Jarret Doege, which could be good or bad, depending on which Mountaineer fan you ask.
The fan base has a love-hate relationship with the fifth-year quarterback. That said, he does come off hisi best statistical season of his career: finishing with 2,908 yards, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Still, it’s going to be tough sledding. The Golden Gophers are one of the best defenses in the country. They rank No. 9 against the run, giving up just 100.2 yards per game and No. 10 against the pass – add it up and it left the Gophers ranked No. 4 overall in total defense.
Minnesota lost its star running back Mo Ibrahim in the season-opener against Ohio State. Since then, the GOphers offense hasn’t been great, but most of the time it’s done enough to get the job done.
The Gophers then went with a running back by committee approach – with Ky Thomas (680 rushing yards and five touchdowns), Mar’Kiese Irving (570 rushing yards and four touchdowns) and Trey Potts (552 rushing yards and six touchdowns)
Then, there’s senior quarterback Tanner Morgan, who had another average season and finished a respectable career at MInnesota, but one that didn’t meet expectations after his stellar sophomore season.
Morgan threw for 1,935 yards and just 10 touchdowns compared to eight interceptions. ‘
Because of Minnesota’s limitations and the act that West Virginia’s defense isn’t great, but it’s solid, we can expect a low-scoring game. The Mountaineers finished 41st in total defense.
The X-factor for both sides is its special teams. The Gophers like to play low-scoring games, which is why all three phases of the game are heightened in this one, so it’s important to capitalize on special teams.
So we look at senior kicker Matthew Trickett – who went 16-of-23 on field goals this year for Miunnesota. He has a big leg – he hit from 50 this year – but he wasn’t as consistent as PJ Fleck would have hoped, gong just 4-of-9 from 40+ this year.
As a sophomore, he was 29-of-34 and hit 10-of-11 field goals between 40-49 yards, so while it’s been an up and down year, we know he’s capable of hitting big kicks.
The kicker for West Virginia has the perfect kicker name – Casey Legg.
He wasn’t even on scholarship to begin the year, but he earned it and then some, finishing a very respectable 19-of-23 kicking on the season. Legg was 15-of-16 from 39 yards and closer and 4-of-7 on attempts from 40 yards or farther.
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|West Virginia Mountaineers vs Minnesota Golden Gophers Information|
|Teams||West Virginia Mountaineers vs Minnesota Golden Gophers|
|Location||Petco Park, San Diego, CA|
|Time||Tuesday, Dec. 28, 10:15 p.m. EST|
|How to watch||ESPN|
Tony writes about baseball for WSN.com after recently graduating with his Masters from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to that, Tony was a local sports reporter for MLive Media Group, based out of Jackson, Michigan where he covered everything from high school to professional sports. He graduated from Michigan State in 2015 with a degree in journalism. During his time there he covered the Michigan State football and men’s basketball teams from 2013-15 and hosted a sports radio show on WDBM 89FM.More info on Tony Garcia
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