Why should this nominee be considered for the Broyles Award?
Minnesota defensive coordinator Joe Rossi has turned Minnesota’s defense into one of the top units in the country. Entering the Nov. 13 weekend, the Gophers rank eighth in the nation in total defense (298.9), 14th in rushing defense (103.1) and 15th in scoring defense (18.3). The Golden Gopher defense is one of the main reasons the team is currently tied for first in the Big Ten West and appeared at No. 20 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings. Minnesota is allowing just 298.9 yards per game. That’s on pace to be the best mark the program has had since 1977 when it allowed 292.8 yards per game. The unit is also looking to post a scoring defense below 20 points per game for the season for the first time since 1999 (16.3). The last time before that was 1977 (15.5).
Coach's Past Performance
Minnesota has thrived with Joe Rossi leading the defense, and the Gophers are 23-10 since he took over with four games left in 2018.
Rossi coordinated a young defense in 2020, which was routinely missing individuals as Minnesota navigated the Covid-19 pandemic.
Minnesota allowed 20 points or less in three games and finished the season with back-to-back games of allowing only 17 and 20 points, as it improved throughout the season.
In 2019, the Gophers ranked tenth in the nation in total defense by allowing only 306.6 yards per game, which was the program’s fewest amount since 1977. Minnesota, which yielded only
22.5 points per game, was ninth in the nation in passing yards allowed (184.2) and23rd in rushing defense (122.4). The Gophers were 17th in the country in interceptions (14) and 24th in first downs defense (229).
Team Record and Standings
Minnesota is 6-3 on the season and 4-2 in the Big Ten, currently in a 4-way tie for first place in the Big Ten West.
Not including the season opener, Minnesota has held six of its eight opponents this season below what their season total offense average was entering the contest.The Gophers are holding opponents to 18.3 points per game, good for 15thin the country. Minnesota has held its last seven opponents to 23 points or fewer, the team’s longest such streak since a seven-game stretch from the 2002 Music City Bowl through the first six games of 2003.The Golden Gophers also have one of the strongest rush defenses in the country, ranking 14th nationally and third in the Big Ten by allowing 103.1 rushing yards per game this year. The national average for rushing yards per game through Nov. 6 is 164.0 yards per game; only two Gopher opponents have gone above 144 yards rushing this year and five have been held to 104 rushing yards or less. In fact, Minnesota had a two-game stretch of just 3 rush yards allowed (-19 at Colorado, 22 vs. Bowling Green). Minnesota is fourth in the country in fewest opponent rush attempts (269), 14th in opponent rush yards (928), 17th in opponent rushing touchdowns (7) and 24th in opponent yards per carry (3.45).Minnesota did not have a sack through its first twogames, but the Gophers have since tallied 19 sacks over the last seven games.The 12 sacks (four in each game) against Colorado, Bowling Green and Purdue were the most for Minnesota in a three-game span since recording 14 from Nov. 5-19, 2016.The Gophers had not had a streak of three straight games with at least four sacks since Oct. 4-25, 2008
Individual Player Stats
On a defense with its top nine tacklers back from last season, the linebacking duo of Mariano Sori-Marin and Jack Gibbens has paced the unit in 2021. Sori-Marin, who has started all nine games but was limited to less than one quarter of play at Purdue, leads the team with 65 tackles, including 23 over the last two games. After 11 at Northwestern, he had 12 against Illinois, which is the most by a Gopher this year. Gibbens is right behind Sori-Marin with 60 tackles. He also has one forced fumble, and he’s tied for second in pass breakups (3, all coming at Purdue). After two tackles in the season opener, Gibbens has at least six stops in seven of the last eight contests. Boye Mafe’s 6.0 sacks this year are tied for 35th nationally and rank seventh in the Big Ten. He already has the most by a Gopher since 2018. Mafe also leads the team with 8.0 tackles for loss this year. With Thomas Rush at 5.5 sacks this year, he and Mafe are the first Gopher duo with at least 5.5 sacks in the same season since 2016.