U defense regains respect by snuffing out Ragin’ Cajuns

David La Vaque

Minnesota’s defense left itself open to a barrage of criticism after a 38-7 loss against Toledo two weeks ago.

How best to describe a unit that surrendered 512 yards of Rockets offense? Fans filled in the blank with words like lumbering, outplayed and worst of all – uninspired.

Coach Glen Mason made personnel changes, but the driving force behind Saturday’s 44-14 win over Louisiana-Lafayette at the Metrodome was an agitated Gophers defense looking for respect.

“Any competitor is going to be ticked off after you get embarrassed, and that’s what we went through last week,” senior safety Jack Brewer said. “Yeah, we were ticked off, and I think we came out with something to prove.”

Minnesota’s defense bound and gagged the Ragin’ Cajuns attack in the first half. Louisiana-Lafayette mustered zero rushing yards on 12 attempts, made only two first downs and punted away each of its first six possessions.

The second half saw Louisiana-Lafayette generate a meaningless touchdown, but the Gophers defense ruled the day.

Led by linebacker Phil Archer’s 11 tackles, Minnesota played an active and inspired brand of defense.

“We wanted to have fun today,” senior Greg White said. White notched a pair of sacks on Saturday. “We play better when we have fun. We gave a good effort, but there’s a long way to go.”

But after Toledo, the road back was longer. And the battered Gophers defense put the responsibility of getting home squarely on their shoulders.

“We came out with confidence from the jump,” Brewer said. “I don’t care who you play. When you play that good on defense you have to feel good about yourself. But then again, you want to think about all the things you did wrong and work on it for the next week.

 

Roth rests

Right guard Ryan Roth missed the first game of his Gophers career with an injury. Mason wouldn’t comment on what the injury was, or how long it will keep Roth out, but said Sunday the line would “stay intact” for the Baylor on Saturday.

Jeremiah Carter, a junior from St. Paul, started in Roth’s place. Carter, a former walk-on, missed last season with a knee injury.

Backup defensive tackle Brandon Harston was also sidelined with an undisclosed injury.

 

Johnson scare

Minnesota fans who stuck around for the fourth quarter were given a scare when senior wide receiver Ron Johnson rolled his ankle with just under six minutes left in the game.

Johnson walked off the field and had ice on his ankle but said, “It’s all right” after the game.

Before the play, Johnson hauled in four catches for 56 yards. He also threw a two-yard touchdown to quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq. Johnson now has a reception in 37 consecutive games, which is currently the NCAA record.

 

Notes

ïRedshirt freshman Terry Jackson II scored his first career touchdown on a four-yard run in the fourth quarter.

ïTrue freshman Ryan Duffy handled kickoffs for the Gophers and had two touchbacks.

ïRunning back Thomas Tapeh, who didn’t play a week ago, saw action on special teams plays this week. The sophomore didn’t play on offense. Mason said Tapeh still isn’t in game shape.

 

— John R. Carter contributed to this report.

 

David La Vaque is the sports editor and welcomes comments
at [email protected]