Mason addresses Giannini’s recent woes

Bryan Cupito may resume holding duties Saturday after a bad place-kicking week.

by David McCoy

Minnesota football coach Glen Mason said he’ll be making some changes in kicker Jason Giannini’s practice routine this week after the freshman missed a field goal and two extra points in Minnesota’s 42-21 win Saturday at Indiana.

“We will do some things in practice this week that will make it a little more gamelike, maybe fewer kicks, but better-quality kicks, and go from there,” Mason said. “Sometimes a good golfer can make the 10-footer but he can’t make the 3-footer.”

Mason said the problem is either in basic fundamentals, such as the setup, approach, plant foot or hold; or it’s mental.

Quarterback Bryan Cupito said he might resume the holding duties, which he had done once already this season after Giannini missed five extra points over the course of Minnesota’s second and third games of the season.

But punter Justin Kucek took over the responsibility after Cupito left the game against Michigan on Oct. 8 with an injury.

“All I can tell you is any guy that can make a kick in Michigan Stadium in front of (111,117) people on national TV, he should be able to make an extra point,” Mason said. “We have to correct it; we have to work with him and do a better job. So that is what we are going to do.”

Healthy Gophers

Wide receiver Jared Ellerson didn’t make the trip to Bloomington, Ind., this weekend with an injured toe. Running back Laurence Maroney was limited with a bruised ankle.

But Mason said Tuesday that he expects his team to be the healthiest it has been all season come Saturday when it plays host to Michigan State at 11 a.m. at the Metrodome.

“We’re a little banged up as a football team, but I don’t think that we are in any worse shape than anybody else, and probably in better shape than most,” Mason said. “I think we should be pretty healthy by game time, probably healthier than we’ve been in the last three or four games.”

Three Big Ten teams still bowl-hopeful

With its win Saturday at Indiana, Minnesota became bowl-eligible for the sixth time in seven seasons and became the Big Ten’s sixth bowl-eligible team.

But three Big Ten teams that lost Saturday are still in the hunt. And all three have direct ties to the Gophers.

That includes the Hoosiers, who must now win out if they hope to end the Big Ten’s longest active bowl drought. Indiana hasn’t been to a bowl since it lost to Virginia Tech 45-20 in the 1993 Independence Bowl.

After losing to Minnesota, Indiana (4-5, 1-5 Big Ten), will have to beat Michigan on the road and Purdue at home to become bowl-eligible.

“Our seniors are very determined,” coach Terry Hoeppner said. “The players I have talked to are eager and excited. The attitude of this team continues to impress me. It hasn’t dropped in the last month.

“I still love this team and am proud of them. I challenged them to not hang their head or slink around. Stick your chest out and your chin up. Walk around and be proud you are a part of this football team. Nobody else on this campus can do what you are doing.”

The other two teams – Michigan State (5-4, 2-4 Big Ten) and Iowa (5-4, 3-3 Big Ten) – need just one more win to become bowl-eligible, and both could get those wins against Minnesota, which re-entered the Bowl Championship Series Top 25 at No. 24 after a week out.

The Gophers (6-3, 3-3 Big Ten) play host to the Spartans on Saturday and then travel to Iowa to close out the regular season on Nov. 19. Iowa could become bowl-eligible Saturday at Wisconsin.

Alvarez’s final home game Saturday

Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez will coach his final home game Saturday when his team plays host to Iowa.

Alvarez has been Badgers coach since 1990 and has served a dual role as Wisconsin’s athletics director since April 2004. He is retiring as coach at the end of this season to focus exclusively on his role as athletics director.

“I don’t know if I’d do anything over,” Alvarez said Monday at his weekly news conference. “I’m sure I’ve made mistakes, but nothing that we haven’t been able to overcome. I wish I’d have been more patient with that first group of kids, although I wanted to set a standard of work ethic that we did. And I think we did build a work ethic that has stayed with us.”

Alvarez is the only coach in Big Ten history to win back to back Rose Bowls.