You can’t blame Minnesota football coach Glen Mason for not living up to his word.
Since the beginning of spring practice, Mason has insisted both his quarterbacks – senior Travis Cole and sophomore Asad Abdul-Khaliq – will see action during Gophers games this season.
Like the outcome of Thursday’s opener against Toledo, however, round one of Minnesota’s 2001 dual-quarterback offense ended in ugly defeat.
Neither Cole nor Abdul-Khaliq were effective in Minnesota’s 38-7 loss to the Rockets. The pair combined to throw for just 187 yards and no touchdowns.
“We didn’t get anything going (offensively) all night,” Mason said. “We were out of sync.”
To the surprise of most outsiders, Abdul-Khaliq got the call to start the game for Minnesota. Mason said his decision to send Abdul-Khaliq out there was based on his strong performance in spring practice and two-a-days in August.
But after failing to get the Gophers on the scoreboard in the first half, Abdul-Khaliq was pulled in favor of Cole to start the second session. Cole played the rest of the way.
“Things weren’t going (well),” Mason said. “Just like baseball, sometimes you switch your pitchers.”
After starting the final seven games a year ago, Cole seemed the favorite to begin the year as the starter. But Mason said a superior off-season by Abdul-Khaliq earned him the job. Cole wasn’t surprised by the move.
“Asad deserved the job, he won it outright,” Cole said. “He practiced better and came out on top.”
Even though he did start, Abdul-Khaliq isn’t taking Mason’s nod as a sign of things to come. With Mason, anything can happen.
“Anytime this season Travis could start, or I could start,” Abdul-Khaliq said. “It is never a set thing.”
Asked who might start the home opener against Louisiana-Lafayette this weekend, Mason said, “I don’t have an answer for that right now.”
Sophomore safety Eli Ward, listed as a starter, was suspended for the game for violating team policy.
Mason expects Ward, who didn’t make the trip to Toledo, to be back for Saturday’s game. Redshirt freshman Justin Isom started in Ward’s place.
Highly-touted sophomore running back Thomas Tapeh, listed as second string tailback, did not see action against Toledo.
Mason instead went with true freshman Marion Barber III and redshirt freshman Terry Jackson as Tellis Redmon’s backups.
Tapeh has been slow to get back into action after missing spring ball with an injured right foot.
“We’ve got other guys performing better than he is because he’s rusty,” Mason said.
ï Wide receiver Antoine Burns, who caught only one pass last year because of injury, hauled in twice that number against Toledo.
Burns had a pair of receptions against the Rockets, including a 44 strike from Cole in the second half.
With Jermaine Mays ineligible for the season, and Elvin Jones no longer with the team, Burns started opposite Ron Johnson.
ï Offensive lineman Akeem Akinwale caught one pass off a deflected ball in the first half. There was no gain on the play.
ï Drop linebacker Renato Fitzpatrick had a tackle for the Gophers special teams unit. Fitzpatrick was a running back a year ago.
ï Guard Ryan Roth started after missing a couple weeks of practice with tonsillitis.
ï Minnesota announced an addition to its 2002 schedule. The Gophers host Buffalo on Sept. 21, one of 12 games set for next season.
John R. Carter covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]