Whack a Gopher the order of the day

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The Daily Iowan

Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard passes off the ball to running back Akrum Wadley during the Rose Bowl Game in Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California on Friday, Jan. 1, 2016. Wadley rushed for 33 yards. Stanford defeated Iowa, 45-16. (The Daily Iowan/Alyssa Hitchcock)

In order for the Hawkeyes to grab a win against Minnesota, there are a whole bunch of things they will have to do.

Here are three of the most important.

Stop Mitch Leidner

Mobile quarterbacks often torch the Hawkeyes, and this game could end up getting out of hand — in Minnesota’s favor — if they can’t stop the Gopher’s talented quarterback.

He’s enjoying career highs in completion percentage, yardage per game, and quarterback rating. One of the major reasons is that he’s healthy.

Leidner has been banged up or missed time for much of his previous three seasons, and an injury-free year has him playing the best football of his career. He will certainly be excited about another shot at beating the Hawkeyes, something he has only managed once in his career at Minnesota.

Because he is an athletic player, Iowa will spend a good portion of this game trying to drag him down. Expect Minnesota to throw some new formations and plays at Iowa. How he does in those situations will be telling.

Helping out Leidner will be Drew Wolitarsky, one of the best wide receivers in the Big Ten. Leading the team with 24 receptions for 321 yards and 3 touchdowns, he makes plays.

Minnesota has also kept Leidner upright, allowing just 3 sacks on the season, the second-best mark in the conference.

Keep Minnesota out of the backfield

The Gophers have 35 tackles for loss this season, and they make things a living hell for their opponents’ running backs and quarterbacks.

Minnesota may only have 9 sacks on the season (12th in the conference), but it has been able to penetrate opposing offensive lines. Sacks and penalties have killed the Iowa offense throughout the season, which has harmed its record.

Last week, against Northwestern, the Hawkeyes gave up 6 sacks, the most this season. It also wasn’t an outlier. There have been all sorts of moments this year in which things have unraveled for the Iowa offensive line.

Minneapolis seems to be another location where it could happen. From the onset of the game, Iowa has to protect starting quarterback C.J. Beathard and claim the line of scrimmage.

At home, in a rivalry game, Minnesota will be very hard to beat if the team is getting knocked around offensively since the onset of the game.

Establish the running game

Iowa backs LeShun Daniels Jr. and Akrum Wadley have had their fair share of good moments this season, but overall, the running game has struggled from time-to-time.

The Hawkeyes rushed for just 79 yards last week against Northwestern and only 34 against North Dakota State, the two best teams Iowa has played this year.

There are issues in how the run game is being blocked, but there just doesn’t seem to be the explosiveness in the offense that existed last year. The Hawkeyes really could use a big offensive game to try to gain some confidence.

In order to do that, however, they need to run the ball and often. It’s worked at certain moments and really is the key to the whole offense.

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