Mason debates Badgers loss

by Michael Dougherty

Like a human beer commercial, Minnesota football coach Glen Mason is having a tastes great/less filling debate about the effects of the Wisconsin loss.
But instead of supermodel Rebecca Romijn-Stamos arguing with Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly, Mason is having the argument with himself.
After the 20-17 overtime loss Saturday, Mason said, “I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed three and a half hours more in my life.”
While Mason was expounding on the qualities of the loss, he said he faces a tough task trying to shake his squad out of its Wisconsin hangover.
“I didn’t know exactly what to say to my team after the game,” Mason said at his weekly media luncheon Tuesday.
When he was asked if the experience of the upperclassmen would help the team rebound, Mason said he didn’t think so, adding that good teams just know how to do it. He used the Badgers as an example, citing their losses at Cincinnati and at home against Michigan.
“I’m sure a couple of weeks ago Wisconsin was as low as could be,” he said. “Then they beat Ohio State, then us in overtime and they’re running around out there after that game with that axe. It sure looked like they forgot all about those losses.”
Illinois coach Ron Turner is smack dab in the middle of an attempt to build up his team’s confidence after the Illini blew a 28-7 lead at Indiana on Oct. 2 before losing 34-31 in overtime.
“We slacked off in the second quarter and then couldn’t get anything going in the fourth quarter,” Turner said. “We had the momentum early but then lost it. And in college athletics it’s very, very difficult to get it back.”
Coach floats
Saturday’s game is the homecoming game for Illinois, and Mason said he’s noted a trend: His teams have played in quite a few homecoming games over the years.
Besides being the homecoming opposition for Illinois, the Gophers are also potential homecoming fodder for Penn State, Nov. 6. You can just about count on Minnesota being scheduled for at least two, if not three homecoming games every season.
“I said the other day I think I’ve been involved in more homecomings than any other active coach,” Mason said. “I think I’ll wear a crown this weekend.”
In full Rodney Dangerfield mode, Mason quipped, “When we go to away games we don’t ride buses. We ride floats.”
Illinois is 38-48-2 in homecoming games and hasn’t won one since 1993.
Larger list of lumps
The injury front was a good news/bad news situation for Mason and the Gophers. Wide receiver Antoine Henderson will return to the field Saturday and linebacker Curtese Poole should be able to go after sitting out the Wisconsin game.
However, Poole’s linebacking partner Justin Hall will be out for at least Saturday’s game. Hall, who has a walking cast on his left leg, could’ve played Saturday according to Mason but the team decided to hold him out.
“We put him on the shelf to really try to get him fully healed for the rest of the season,” Mason said.
But of most concern for Minnesota is the offensive line. Senior left guard Pat Hau — who has started 25 games for Minnesota — is still questionable with the neck injury that kept him out of the Badgers game. Mason also said junior left tackle Adam Haayer is not practicing with the team because of an injury that occurred in the Wisconsin game. Senior right tackle Josh Rawlings is limited in practice but should play Saturday. Haayer’s status is still in the air.
ù The Ohio State game on Oct. 23 will be televised on ESPN. Game time is set for 11:10 a.m.
ù Mason was the offensive line coach for Illinois in 1977 under then-head coach Gary Moeller. Moeller later coached Michigan.

Michael Dougherty covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]