Gophers Should Lean on Talented Freshmen Running Backs to Beat Bowling Green

PHOTO: AARON LAVINSKY – STAR TRIBUNE

The Minnesota Gophers will play their homecoming game at 11 AM CT on Saturday vs the Bowling Green Falcons, who they’ve only played two other times in school history (1-1). The Gophers are 31-point favorites and expected to easily dispose of the Falcons.

That should mean a perfect opportunity to get more run for Freshmen backs, Mar’Keise “Bucko” Irving and Ky Thomas, who totaled 22 carries, 155 yards and a touchdown in a 30-0 victory over the Colorado Buffaloes last weekend. But that’s easier said than done when PJ Fleck is your head coach.

Irving and Thomas may have combined for 22 carries vs Colorado. But Trey Potts got 26 by himself. In fact, since Mohamad Ibrahim was injured and Trey was crowned the new bell cow on September 11, Potts has taken 10 more carries than any other running back nationwide.

Freshmen Showcase

With Mohamad Ibrahim out, the Minnesota Gophers will need Mar’Keise Irving and Ky Thomas to take important carries throughout the 2021 season. Fleck made it clear last week, that he’s going to roll with his underclassmen. Upperclassman, Bryce Williams got one carry vs Colorado and fumbled. Cam Wiley didn’t see the field.

But to trust Bucko and Ky, they need reps to prove they’re ready for the real thing. Tomorrow’s game vs an inferior MAC opponent like Bowling Green, should be a perfect opportunity to do exactly that.

The last time the Falcon defense took the field vs a Power 5 opponent was in week one vs the Tennessee Volunteers. They surrendered 331 rushing yards, alone. Yes, you read that correctly. 331 yards on the ground. Fleck and Co are hitting the pillow tonight determined to put up a number similar to that on Saturday. And they should be able to do it without handing the ball off to Trey Potts 25 times.

Save Potts for Big Ten Season

Sometimes it is difficult for PJ Fleck to move on from his RB1. That’s fine when he’s playing against other Big Ten opponents. Nobody will complain if Potts takes 30+ carries to beat Nebraska or Wisconsin. I promise. But the Minnesota Gophers shouldn’t have to run Trey 34 times to beat Miami (OH) or 26 times during a blowout victory over Colorado.

Save Potts for Big Ten play. Use games vs Bowling Green to get reps for young guys who heavily factor into your future plans. It should keep those younger running backs happy and hungry, which is becoming more and more important with the immediate transfer capabilities of 2021. It also gives those young backs invaluable experience that they will need to tap into for the future.

The time for Mar’Keise “Bucko” Irving and Ky Thomas is tomorrow vs the (should be) overwhelmed Bowling Green defense.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan