Gophers lackadaisical effort results in 14 Buffalo points

Brian Stensaas

As the final seconds ticked away in the first half of Saturday afternoon’s tilt with Buffalo, Minnesota football coach Glen Mason didn’t walk toward the Metrodome tunnel. He stormed his way there.

Mason would later say that he was “very steamed” after watching his team surrender 14 points in eight minutes after building a 31-0 lead. But to the casual onlooker, steamed was putting it mildly. Mason was about to boil over.

And he did in the locker room.

“We went from dominating the game to being dominated,” Mason said. “It’s a scary feeling.

“I don’t think I can repeat (what was said). In some ways we lost the discipline of our football team. I don’t care who you’re playing or what situation the game is in; if you start losing your focus you have some problems.”

After holding the Bulls to zero first downs and only 18 total yards of offense in the first quarter, the Gophers’ dominant play rolled over into the second stanza.

Two scores in the first seven minutes of the second quarter made it 31-0. But that’s when the premature party began.

“In my mind there was a little too much laughing and happiness going on,” Minnesota linebacker Bradley Vance said of the letdown.

Suddenly, Buffalo was gunning down the field at will. In their second full series of the second quarter, two Aaron Leeper rushes and a completed pass from Randall Secky to Dan Lindsay gave the Bulls more yards in three plays (31) than they mustered in entire first quarter.

Leeper finally put his team on the board with a seven-yard touchdown run, and the Bulls scored again with nine seconds to play in the half capping the frustration on the opposite sideline.

“We lost focus,” Vance said. “We weren’t playing like we should. Coach told us what he expected and how were playing. And it wasn’t in a nice way.”

Whatever it was Mason said between halves worked. After both teams traded three-and-out drives to open the third quarter, the Gophers went on to put up 10 additional points while limiting Buffalo to only a field goal.

The defense made better plays throughout the second half, finishing tackles and holding the Bulls to negative one yard of offense until the 3:30 mark of the third quarter.

Mason said he was happy to see the Bulls pretty much halted the remainder of the game. Minnesota quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq agreed with his coach’s halftime thoughts and knew something had to change.

“We got too comfortable,” Abdul-Khaliq said. “You can’t settle down in this game. A lot of guys came out in the second half knowing what (Mason) said was right. He got in our heads real good. I don’t think something like that will happen again this season.”

And it better not if the team expects to do any damage the rest of the season. Minnesota is out of soft non-conference opponents. It’s all Big Ten big boys from this point on beginning next Saturday at Purdue.

Any type of letdown will not go unnoticed in the conference. But one nearly a half-quarter long could easily be the difference between a win and a loss.