Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim solidified his spot as one of the nation’s best running backs with his performance against Ohio State in the season opener.
Unfortunately for Ibrahim and the Golden Gophers, he left that game near the end of the third quarter with a season-ending injury.
Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell, however, is still expecting to see a Minnesota offense intent on running the football when the two teams match up Saturday at Folsom Field (11 a.m., TV: Pac-12 Networks).
“I think offensively this team will try to run the football just as much as we try to,” Dorrell said. “They’ll try to run the football. We try to do the same, so it’s going to be a good physical matchup, which is what we would expect.”
Ibrahim had 163 yards and two touchdowns in three quarters against Ohio State, but his backup, Treyson Potts hasn’t been too bad, either. Potts gained 34 yards against Ohio State and then racked up 178 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-26 win against Miami (Ohio) last weekend.
“We’ve got to be prepared for next man up because they obviously have a lot of other good backs and they’re gonna want to run the ball,” CU safety Mark Perry said. “So, we’re gonna have to stop the run and do what we do in the secondary.”
Ibrahim was a workhorse back who led the country in carries per game (28.7) last year, just ahead of CU’s Jarek Broussard. He then had 30 carries in three quarters against Ohio State. Potts had 34 against Miami (Ohio), but Gophers head coach PJ Fleck said, “We’re going to throw more guys into the mix.”
Sophomores Cam Wiley (six carries) and Bryce Williams (two) have also carried the ball this year. Among the healthy backs, Williams has the most career yards, with 539.
Whether it’s Potts handling the load or a committee, Minnesota is committed to running the ball – and so are the Buffs.
Only seven teams in the country averaged more rushing attempts per game in 2020 than CU (46.0) and the Buffs have already racked up 87 attempts this year.
Broussard is still the Buffs’ lead back, but a healthy Alex Fontenot and an older, more mature Ashaad Clayton have given the Buffs a solid trio that can lead the offense. Behind that crew – as well as quarterback Brendon Lewis – the Buffs are averaging 226 rushing yards per game.
The winner of Saturday’s game could very well be the team that finds the most success on the ground.
“I know that the test we went through last week (against Texas A&M) told us that we can battle in those types of trench-type games,” Dorrell said. “We need to move forward understanding that really every game from this point forward as we go into our conference schedule will be very similar.”
In the opener, the Buffs faced a quarterback (Northern Colorado’s Dylan McCaffrey) making his first start with a new team. Last week against Texas A&M, they faced a freshman (Haynes King) making second career start and then a backup (Zach Calzada) with even less experience.
This week, the Buffs face Minnesota’s Tanner Morgan, a junior who is in his third season a full-time starter. Morgan is 19-9 as a starter and has thrown for 6,345 yards and 49 touchdowns in his career.
“He’s a good quarterback for sure,” Perry said. “He’s a veteran guy, so he’s gonna try to pick us up apart, but I felt like the defense, we’re a veteran defense, so we’re gonna have some things for them, too.”
Since the start of last season, opponent quarterbacks have completed only 54.7 percent of their passes against the Buffs.
Confidence in Becker
True freshman kicker Cole Becker is 0-for-2 so far on field goals, but they’ve been tough kicks from 53 and 46 yards. Despite the misses, Dorrell said the Buffs are fully confident in him.
“He’s gonna be a really good player. I mean a really good player,” said Dorrell, who added Becker hit all of his kicks from 45-55 yards throughout practice Tuesday. “He’s had a couple of tough situations that he didn’t hit but I’m very confident; this whole team is very confident in Cole because they see him every day and how he kicks and he’s a tremendous talent.”
As of about mid-day Thursday, CU had sold around 45,000 tickets for Saturday’s game. … Minnesota is hopeful that senior receiver Chris Autman-Bell will make his season debut this week. Out with a leg injury this year, Autman-Bell was second on the team in receiving last year (22 catches, 430 yards). … In preparing for the trip, Fleck said doctors have told him that the altitude will have more of an impact on players the longer the Gophers are in Colorado, so they won’t be in town very long. “If we can get in and get out, it shouldn’t affect us very much at all,” he said.