Gophers Darius Taylor Active vs Iowa

NCAA Football: Eastern Michigan at Minnesota
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Gophers Darius Taylor is one of the most talented young running backs to ever put on a maroon and gold football jersey, in Dinkytown, and that’s not hyperbole. It is, however, unbelievably impressive, given the running back history at the University of Minnesota.

Gophers Darius Taylor active vs Iowa Hawkeyes

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And after being out with an injury for the last two weeks, Darius Taylor is active vs the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday afternoon.

It appeared to be trending this way last week and optimism continued into the weekend, but per Big Ten rules, the Gophers released their official pregame injury report early this afternoon and Taylor was not on it. Another running back, Bryce Williams was listed as out for today and out for the season. Cody Lindenberg is questionable.

Historic start for phenom freshman

Up until his injury in week 4, Taylor was on pace to challenge, not just the freshman Gopher rushing record, but Mohamed Ibrahim’s all-time single season record of 1,665 yards on the ground, set just last season.

Darius has technically appeared in four games this season, but in all three games where he has received more than one carry (weeks 2-4), Taylor has taken home the Big Ten Freshman of the Week award.

2Eastern Michigan331931Yes
3@ (#20) North Carolina221381Yes
4@ Northwestern311982Yes

But in the Gophers’ final offensive play of the game vs Northwestern, Taylor was tackled short of the sticks on a crucial 3rd-and-one. When he stood up, he was grabbing his left leg. Beyond that, we do not know the details of his injury but it cost him two weeks and a chance at Gopher football glory.

Minnesota Gophers need Taylor to beat Hawkeyes

Taylor’s return is well timed because Saturday in Kinnick is a game PJ Fleck needs, if the Gophers’ 2023 season is to be salvaged in any respectable way. Iowa’s defense is one of the best in the country, no doubt, but they did show some weaknesses against the run last week vs the Wisconsin Badgers.

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The overall numbers do not show it because Badger head coach, Luke Fickell, all but gave up on the running game, when Braelon Allen was off the field nursing injury. But even banged up, Allen averaged 4.8 yards per carry (18 att, 87 yds) against the Hawkeyes. Sure, Allen is one of the conferences premiere backs, but I’d argue Darius Taylor is too.

We know PJ Fleck is going to make sure Athan Kaliakmanis hands off at least 40 times on Saturday, as long as Iowa doesn’t jump out to an early lead. There’s only one way Fleck is willing to end his losing streak vs the Hawkeyes.

In PJ’s wettest dreams, he beats Kirk Ferentz for the first time, at Ferentz’ own game. Fleck literally fantasizes over the way Iowa wins football games… AKA: with as little offensive firepower as possible.

Let me translate the above for you. Much like every year this matchup occurs, we can expect a lot of handoffs on Saturday. And if Minnesota is going to win that way, most of those handoffs have to go to Darius Taylor. After 6 games, it’s obvious how much more talented the freshman out of Walled, MI is, compared to the rest of the Gopher backfield.

That’s not a knock on redshirt freshman Zach Evans, who will need to carry his fair share of the load in Kinnick on Saturday (probably 10ish carries), or any of the other Minnesota running backs. But if the Gophers are going to win playing Ferentz ball, Taylor will have to be that dude for Minnesota.

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Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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