Gophers seek

by Michael Dougherty

Redemption is a hard thing to come by — especially after giving up 692 total yards and 56 points to Purdue — but the Gophers football team still spent the week asking for it.
“Purdue is a totally different team in one regard because they kind of go against what our defense is geared for,” linebacker Parc Williams said. “Our defense is made to stop teams like Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin — teams that like to run the ball. When you think of Big Ten football you think of teams that like to run the ball.”
Like it or not, Williams and the rest of the Gophers defense will get a shot at redemption when legendary coach Joe Paterno and his 13th-ranked Penn State team rolls into town with the thought of ramming redemption right down the Gophers’ throats.
Minnesota still ranks second in the nation against the rush, and presented this week a seemingly rehearsed explanation of their troubling play against the Boilermakers.
“We’re a physical team that likes to stop the run and that is what our goal is every week,” linebacker Sean Hoffman said. “So I think we’re not going to have any trouble defending the run.”
Mason, meanwhile, spent the week making changes on the offensive side of the ball, most notably naming Andy Persby the starter at quarterback.
“We still have our woes on offense, and I think Persby warrants a chance,” Mason said. “Something has to change, because our defense is on the field way too often.”
Persby’s first collegiate start comes against a tough Penn State defense — but, of course, that’s redundant.
The leader on defense is linebacker LaVar Arrington, this year’s model in the vaunted “Linebacker U” assembly line.
Arrington, a sophomore from Pittsburgh who gained over 4,000 yards as a running back in high school, had 11 tackles against top-ranked Ohio State Saturday. He also forced two fumbles, recovered one and had two pass break-ups.
“Arrington, he’s the real deal,” Mason said. “If you want to play good defense, get a couple guys like him. Last year when he was covering kickoffs, I said I’ve never seen a guy with a body like that wearing number 11.”
Persby said he knows all about the Penn State defense, and figures he has a chance to help the defense out a little bit.
“We want to put together longer and consistent drives, something better than three-and-outs,” Persby said. “If we get six, seven or eight plays and then punt, that’s okay. We’re just happy we’re moving the ball and giving the defense a rest.
“We’re going to put together some drives that are going to score for us and keep their offense off the field, too.”
With a 3-0 record before the debacle at Purdue, the Gophers had a lot of people cautiously optimistic about the chances for a bowl game this season.
But Williams said the team failed in its chance to earn the confidence of the fans.
“After last week we probably lost a lot of fan support,” Williams said. “They’re thinking, `Oh, here we go again. It’s the same old Gopher team,’ but I still have a better feeling this year.”
“This is a huge game, especially being the first home conference game and having all of the students here,” Hoffman said. “We’ve got to prove to ourselves and this community that we’re a team that will play well against some of the top teams in the country.
“At this school nobody should be happy with something like (the Purdue game). The whole state should be upset with how our team played.”