Gophers try for three in a row over Hawkeyes

The Sports Xchange

WHAT'S AHEAD: It hasn't happened very often in recent years, but the Gophers will have a target on their backs when they open Big Ten play at Iowa on Saturday. Minnesota has beaten the Hawkeyes the last two seasons, with both games taking place at TCF Bank Stadium. Iowa has been unimpressive through four games, but the Hawkeyes will be ready to play.

--Minnesota intercepted a pass for the fourth straight game against Syracuse. It's the longest such streak for the Gophers since they picked off a pass in five straight games in 2010.

--Receiver Devin Crawford-Tufts, who left the Western Michigan game because of cramping, had a season-long reception of 40 yards against Syracuse. He finished with three catches for 67 yards.

--Minnesota's defense allowed just one touchdown in a game for the second time this season. The Gophers held New Hampshire to seven points on Sept. 8.

After being a pushover for so many years, the defense has finally become a unit the Gophers can rely on. Minnesota recorded three sacks, intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble against Syracuse. Defensive back Cedric Thompson set the tone with an interception on Syracuse's first play from scrimmage.

The Gophers are proving they can win games without their offense putting up big numbers. Minnesota gained a season-low 337 total yards against Syracuse. The Gophers picked up 106 yards on the ground and 231 passing. Minnesota's previous low had been 397 total yards versus Western Michigan.

Placekicker Jordan Wettstein missed two of three field goal attempts against Syracuse. He missed a 44-yarder in the first quarter and a 26-yarder in the second. Wettstein bounced back to hit a 43-yard kick in the fourth quarter.

"The offense has a complete different confidence level than we did last year. If we can learn to keep drives together and make the plays that we should, then we'd really have a special offense." -- Minnesota quarterback Max Shortell, after the 17-10 win over Syracuse.

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