Minnesota sends struggling secondary into game vs. Indiana

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The loss of star safety Antoine Winfield Jr. to a foot injury has been a big blow to Minnesota.

All those blown coverages and missed tackles in the secondary might not have been made if Winfield were still playing, but there’s an obvious back-end weakness now that Big Ten opponents have been successfully exploiting.

The Gophers (3-4, 0-4) will try again for their first conference victory, when they host Indiana (4-4, 1-4) on Friday night.

“I like our front seven. We stop the run with our front seven,” said head coach P.J. Fleck, who is 2-11 in Big Ten play with Minnesota. “But again people are really smart. Not going to have your front seven stop them.”

Jordan Howden, one of two true freshmen starting in the secondary, has had his share of struggles in Winfield’s absence.

“If he fails, he’ll grow. If he succeeds, he’ll grow, and this is the only chance we have to make people better,” Fleck said, “by experience.”

The Gophers have allowed 173 points in their four conference games, with 21 touchdowns by opposing offenses covering an average distance of 32 yards.

“I take a lot of responsibility,” senior linebacker Blake Cashman said. “I know everyone on the defense feels the same way, because it’s not just one guy or one position group. It’s all of us.”

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