Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, November 2, 2017


Time is running out for Minnesota if it wants to make a bowl for the sixth season in a row. Golden Gophers sophomore linebacker Carter Coughlin knows the urgency.

Minnesota (4-4 overall; 1-4 Big Ten) has lost four of its last five games after a 3-0 start. The Gophers need two more wins to make a bowl. They have road games at Michigan and Northwestern along with home games against Nebraska and Wisconsin. Can they find a way to split those four games?

With the offense struggling, the Gopher defense needs to carry a big load, beginning this week at Michigan in the battle for the Little Brown Jug. In a 14-7 loss last week at Iowa, the defense looked like it did in the opening three weeks when the Gophers led the nation in scoring defense. After allowing at least 30 points in a three-game losing streak, Minnesota held Illinois and Iowa to 17 points each of the last two weeks.

The Hawkeyes had only 315 yards and were held to 3.8 yards per carry. If the defense can play well, maybe the Gophers can find a couple more wins in their remaining schedule.

I caught up with the 6-4, 245-pound Coughlin, a product of Eden Prairie High who has 22 tackles and a team-high 4.5 sacks and 8.5 TFLs in 2017, as he prepped for the Wolverines.

Q: What do you think of Michigan?
A: They pound the ball. That is one of the things they are really known for. They do some different stuff with their blocking schemes. But for the most part, it?s smash-mouth football. That?s the fun part about the Big Ten is that it is run-first. And the team that is most physical wins.

Q: Excluding you, who is the hardest hitter on the team?
A: To be honest with you, I?d say it?s Duke (McGhee). Every single week, Duke surprises me with a hit. Last week, he had one where he came from 15 yards back and absolutely obliterated the running back. He just comes in flying and is not afraid to hit whatsoever even though he isn?t the biggest guy in the world at his position (safety).

Q: Who is the toughest guy for you to tackle on the team?
A: That?s a tough one. One-on-one tackling, it may be Kobe (McCrary). He is a big dude. You definitely feel it when you tackle him.

Q: What was your favorite Halloween costume as a kid?
A: Rocky Balboa. I dressed up like him probably about four times in my life.

Q: What?s your favorite candy?
A: Heath bar.

Q: Are you binge-watching anything now?
A: I just started watching ?Stranger Things? season two. Season two is awesome.

Q: Whose posters did you have hanging up in your bedroom as a kid?
A: One was from the movie ?The Warriors.? Another was ?The Godfather.? I also had one my grandfather made for all the grandkids. It lists the best qualities of a good athlete, stuff like considering it a blessing to be able to practice, how to handle criticism, stuff like that. I still have that hanging up in my room.

Q: If you could pick one guy on the team to wear the Goldy costume, who would it be?
A: Rashad Still for sure. He has a great personality and he dances more than he walks. He would kill it, I think.

Q: Being a Minnesota native, you surely love hockey. Who is your favorite player?
A: Zach Parise. If I watch hockey, it?s the Wild. But to be honest with you, we were more of a basketball family.

Q: You come from a Gopher family. Who was your favorite Gopher growing up?
A: I was always fun to hear (Mike) Weber to (Eric) Decker. I loved that. It usually got the stadium going. But I loved watching Ra?Shede Hageman.

Q: What is your favorite P.J. Fleck saying?
A: The most impactful has been when Coach Fleck talks about how we practice, that it doesn?t promise anything but it gives us a chance. We practice the way we do and we like to think it?s the best way. It?s extremely unique. But just because we practice like that, it doesn?t promise us anything. Just because we have this culture, it doesn?t promise us anything. It just gives us a chance.

Q: What?s the best place to eat in Dinkytown?
A: Shuang Cheng. It has unbelievable sesame chicken.