Cupito will likely play Saturday

by Ben Goessling

It looks like Minnesota’s football team will enter the Big Ten season with its top passer in the backfield.

Starter Bryan Cupito was knocked out of last Saturday’s game with Colorado State after Rams defensive end Pat Goodpaster knocked him down with 3:42 left in the third quarter.

Teammates described Cupito’s injury as a headache, and the redshirt sophomore left the stadium under his own power after the game.

Again, citing federal injury-reporting regulations, coach Glen Mason declined to discuss Cupito’s injury specifically in his weekly news conference Tuesday.

But Mason did say the 19th-ranked Gophers should “have everybody available” when they take on Northwestern on Saturday at the Metrodome.

“I know you’re curious about Cupito, and he’s part of that ‘everybody,’ ” Mason said.

The coach also said defensive end Eric Clark, who played sparingly last weekend because of a sprained ankle, would be ready for Saturday’s game.

Smith won’t name QB

Michigan State coach John L. Smith was less forthright than Mason when discussing his team’s quarterback situation Tuesday.

Redshirt freshman Stephen Reaves started his second consecutive game for the Spartans, but in the second half of last Saturday’s loss to Notre Dame, he was replaced for a second-straight contest by sophomore Drew Stanton.

Smith said both Reaves and Stanton would see time in practice this week. But beyond that, he wasn’t giving up any information.

“We’ll prepare them both and tweak the game plan, depending on who it’s going to be,” he said. “But I’m not telling who it will be.”

Purdue sitting pretty

Most conference coaches named 15th-ranked Purdue as the team that was most impressive in nonconference play. And it isn’t a stretch to say the Boilermakers, who open the conference schedule at Illinois, are the trendy pick for the Big Ten title right now.

“Purdue’s been extremely sharp,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “With a quarterback like Kyle Orton, they’re doing well in all phases of the game.”

The Boilermakers were off last weekend after 50-plus-point drubbings against Syracuse and Ball State. And, at least publicly, coach Joe Tiller said he is concerned about the potentially bad timing of Purdue’s bye week.

“If you have a bye late in the season, you’ve seen a lot of teams and you can begin to formulate some ideas,” he said. “But we’ve only played two, so we didn’t get a lot done in preparing for Illinois.”

Late TV starts irk Mason

The Gophers play at 8 p.m. Saturday, on ESPN, marking the third time in four games they’ve played late to accommodate television.

Mason said Tuesday that he feels like some teams get preferential treatment, and the Gophers aren’t one of them.

“I think we’ve sold our soul in college athletics. There are some schools that always play at 1 (p.m.) or 1:30 (p.m.). They don’t get moved to 8 (p.m.) very often,” Mason said.

The Gophers have grown used to waiting all day to play, but Mason said wishes it were different.

“It’s like when you’re a little kid. Christmas Day, you were down there at 6 a.m.,” he said. “Imagine if your dad said, ‘You can’t open presents until 8 (p.m.) at night, because ESPN’s coming over.’ “