MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -If Minnesota linebacker Lee Campbell thought he was busy last week against Syracuse, wait until Air Force comes to town to open up TCF Bank Stadium this weekend.
Campbell had a career-high 13 tackles in the victory over the Orange, including 11 solo stops and 1 1/2 for a loss. This week brings a much bigger challenge with Air Force, which features a triple-option offense that forces linebackers to make fast decisions.
The Falcons rushed for 474 yards last week in a 72-0 blowout against overmatched Nicholls State. Their three favorite plays are run left, run middle and run right, so Campbell will be ready for an evening of going sideline to sideline against one of the top rushing teams in the country.
``They run the ball well, they cut well,'' Campbell said Tuesday. ``They're not going to overpower you, but they're going to come out and try to outwork you. We're going to have to be prepared for that.''
Big Ten defensive player of the week honors for his performance against Syracuse, with Gophers coach Tim Brewster saying Campbell ``played middle linebacker about as well as you can play it.''
``He plays with just tremendous passion and pride,'' Brewster said. ``He's the spearhead of our defense. He was running from the beginning of that game to the end of that game and just played outstanding.''
He played like a natural, even though his Gophers career has been filled with position changes. Campbell was a linebacker at Gulf Coast High School in Naples, Fla., but was converted to a defensive end when he arrived at Minnesota.
Even though he felt much more comfortable standing up and not in a three-point stance, Campbell started all 12 games as a sophomore, shuffling between the right and left side of the line.
Brewster moved him back to linebacker before last season, and the hard-nosed hitter is starting to flourish.
``It means a lot. It's what I love to do,'' Campbell said.
With defensive tackles Eric Small and Garrett Brown chewing up blockers in front of him, Campbell is free to roam and make plays.
``I wouldn't want to play behind any other D-line in the country,'' he said.
His roommate on the road is linebacker Simoni Lawrence, and the two have a running competition every week to see who can get the most tackles.
Round 1 went to Campbell.
``Right now I owe him like 14 pushups,'' Lawrence said with a smile. ``He beat me by three tackles last week. So I've got to catch him this week.''
To catch Campbell, Lawrence and the rest of the Gophers defense will have to get their hands on Air Force's ball carriers. Fullback Jared Tew rushed for three touchdowns and the Falcons had five players run for at least 57 yards in a game the starters watched for the entire second half.
``It's definitely tough,'' Lawrence said of the option offense. ``Once something like that gets ticking, it's hard to stop.''
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