Player Spotlight: Minnesota RB David Cobb
This week, Penn State heads into a tough matchup against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Minnesota is on a three game win streak, beating three good teams in the process; Northwestern on the road, Nebraska at home, and Indiana on the road. The Golden Gophersʼ defense has been fairly good this year but their success can be attributed more to their running game. Minnesota is ranked 20th in the country in rushing yards, running for 221 yards per game. Bill OʼBrien knows the running game is a focal point for this Minnesota team.
“They (Minnesota) run the ball very well, they run a power scheme and run the ball 75% of the time,” OʼBrien said. “They have two backs and their quarterback can run the ball.”
During the Gopherʼs last three games, junior running back David Cobb has burst onto the scene.
Cobb is a bigger back, listed at 5ʼ11, 225 pounds. The junior succeeds with his deceptive speed and great vision. The Golden Gophers offensive line is very good at either opening the hole or creating a cutback lane for Cobb to rumble through. Minnesota uses a two-quarterback system, with Philip Nelson serving the main pass throwe,r while Mitch Leidner is the change-of-pace threat. When Leidner and Cobb are in at the same time, teams really have to be careful on defense. Even running a play as simple as the read option has the potential to break for a touchdown, with both Cobb and Leidner running the football.
It is interesting that Cobb did not gain full possession of the backfield until the Northwestern game. The junior had shown flashes earlier in the year with a 125-yard
effort against San Jose State, but was then given back-to-back games of eight and seven carries. There is no coincidence that Minnesota lost both of these games against Iowa and Michigan.
Now this might have been because the Golden Gophers fell behind in both games, but Cobb is significantly better than Minnesotaʼs other two running backs. Minnesota knew they had to shake things up, and by giving Cobb the starting job and majority of the carries, the Golden Gophers had the spark they needed.
In the last three games, Minnesota has been running over people, but Cobb is the main culprit. Cobb had a 103-yard performance against Northwestern, followed by a 138-yard performance against Nebraska and finished with a 188-yard game against Indiana. It is safe to say that Cobb has full gained control of this backfield. The junior is averaging 5.4 yards per carry, with six touchdowns in really only four games of significant action.
The most surprising thing about Cobb is that he really burst onto the scene. Before this season, Cobb only had 65 rushing yards for his career. The Minnesota running back has really come out of nowhere and become a great story in the Big Ten.
Cobb has greatly improved as a pass catcher and blocker, things that every running back needs if they want any chance at playing in any level.
For Penn State to have any chance at beating Minnesota on the road ,the Nittany Lions have to limit Cobb in the running game, otherwise the Golden Gophers will probably stretch their winning streak to four games.
Timothy Alvarez is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.