After Saturday, outlook promising

Matt Perkins

Minnesota’s football team can feel slightly justified.

Penn State is good.

And that’s an understatement if you happened to catch their 17-10 win over Ohio State Saturday.

But going into the week, the talk was that Penn State might have killed the Gophers breakthrough season hopes, an argument Minnesota dismissed on the legs of Gary Russell and the leg of Jason Giannini.

Coach Glen Mason may have summed up the Penn State debacle best at last week’s news conference.

“Let’s give credit where it is deserved,” Mason said. “Penn State was a top ten defense from a year ago with everybody coming back.”

And Michigan doesn’t have a Nittany Lion-esque defense.

The Gophers rushed for just 113 yards at Penn State, but bounced back to rack up 264 yards against Michigan.

So the rushing game is in tact, and possibly better than ever going into Saturday’s contest against No. 23 Wisconsin at the Metrodome.

The Gophers are used to getting the big play via their ground attack. They didn’t get it against Penn State, and they didn’t get it against Michigan until Russell’s 61-yard carry on third down and 10 that set up a Giannini game-winning field goal.

But they got it when Michigan knew it was coming.

“We knew they were going to run the football,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “They were really just trying to run the clock out.”

So there is no need to reflect on the lack of a big play the past seven quarters, but Gophers fans should take comfort that it came when it did.

Not only did they go from playing in overtime to a game-winning field goal, they created a burst of momentum heading into the Paul Bunyan’s Axe contest against Wisconsin.

The Gophers had momentum going into the Penn State game, coming off a double-overtime win against Purdue, and when the Nittany Lions trounced them, they didn’t stay down for long.

After the blowout loss to Penn State, Mason made sure he and his players didn’t point fingers.

“I told the players right after the game, we played poorly and there’s a lot of blame to go around,” Mason said. “There are a lot of directions that you can point. Just point at me. I mean that, that’s how I feel.”

Now Minnesota is only feeling the rush that comes with being near the top of the Big Ten standings, tied for second with Wisconsin and Iowa.

Wisconsin is coming off a 51-48 loss to Northwestern, a team most put toward the bottom of the Big Ten food chain.

Penn State may have put the Gophers in their place, but that place isn’t a hole.

The harsh experience may have just been a learning experience.

“Nothing is given to you in this game, especially in the Big Ten,” linebacker John Shevlin said. “Obviously it’s a big win. It gives us a lot of momentum. But we can’t rest on our laurels because we’ve got a good Wisconsin team coming in.”

Giannini player of the week

Minnesota placekicker Jason Giannini won Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week for his play in Saturday’s 23-20 win at Michigan.

Giannini kicked the game-winning 30-yard field goal with one second remaining. He also made field goals of 29- and 26-yards and made both of his extra points.

Schneider too

Molly Schneider, the goalie for Minnesota’s soccer team, won her second straight Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.

She stopped 11 of 12 shots in the Gophers’ two weekend wins over Iowa and Illinois. Minnesota is 5-1-0 in the Big Ten and alone in second place in the conference.