Mason admits long field goal try was his mistake

MADISON, Wis. — For the first known time is his four-year tenure, Gophers football coach Glen Mason admitted he made a mistake.
With 1:20 left in the first half against Wisconsin on Saturday, Mason decided to send kicker Dan Nystrom out to attempt a 57-yard field goal into the wind.
Nystrom had already missed an extra point and a 27-yarder earlier in the half, but Mason felt good about the situation.
Bad call, coach.
Nystrom’s attempt barely made the end zone, and the Badgers took over at their own 40 yard line.
Forty five seconds later, Wisconsin was in the end zone, and the Gophers lead was cut to 12-10.
“Bad decision, my fault,” Mason said. “I’m the one who makes the decisions like those.”
Added Nystrom: “The wind picked up as I got out there. It was kind of a long shot, but it was the end of the half.”
Kickoff questions
Mason implemented a unique kickoff idea against the Badgers: kick the ball high, but not deep, to Wisconsin’s upmen.
Did it work? Not exactly.
On the Gophers five kickoffs, the average starting point for the Badgers was the 36-yard line.
“We’ve had our woes the past couple weeks on kickoff coverage,” Mason said. “We have a problem kicking the ball as deep as we like, and we’ve been hanging on by the skin of our teeth.”
The goal of the idea was to keep the ball away from Wisconsin return man Nick Davis.
Davis never touched the ball, but it didn’t seem to matter.
Was Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez surprised by Mason’s idea?
“A little bit, I kind of liked it though,” Alvarez said.
Quarterback rotation
For the second straight week the Gophers swapped quarterbacks Travis Cole and Asad Abdul-Khaliq on the fly.
Neither played well. Cole was 14 of 26 for 171 yards and two interceptions, while Abdul-Khaliq was 4 of 6 and also had a pick.
Abdul-Khaliq’s interception came on his first attempt, a third and nine in the third quarter, and led to a Badgers touchdown.
“Asad’s a good passer too,” Mason said when asked why he put Abdul-Khaliq in during that situation.
Ron vs. Jamar
Alvarez wasn’t kidding Tuesday when he said he didn’t know how often All-American cornerback Jamar Fletcher would guard Gophers standout wide receiver.
Fletcher rotated on Minnesota’s receivers all afternoon, and wasn’t covering Johnson on his 79-yard reception.
Thanks to Fletcher, the Gophers gained only 187 yards in the air, although 111 were from Johnson.
Extra points
ù After having last week’s sack reduced from a whole to a half, Gophers defensive end Karon Riley remained tied with Lamanzer Williams for the school record.
Against the Badgers, Riley got it back, breaking the school record with sack number 24.5.
ù Minnesota center Ben Hamilton was named one of four finalists for the Rotary Lombardi Award, which is given to the nation’s best lineman, offensive or defensive.
He is the first Minnesota player to become a finalist for the award.

John R. Carter covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]