Stoudemire stands out as a bright spot in Gophers loss

There were no acrobatic interceptions. No Eric Decker catches. No barreling Adam Weber rushes. In the first half, there was hardly a first down to cheer about. About the only excitement generated by the Gophers on Saturday came from true freshman Troy Stoudermire, who returned six kicks for 128 yards in the Gophers’ 29-6 loss to Michigan. Taking away his 3-yard return of a squib kick in the final 30 seconds of the game, Stoudermire averaged 25 yards per return and had another lengthy one nullified by a holding penalty. âÄúI hope I gave us a little spark,âÄù Stoudermire said. âÄúThings weren’t going well, but that can change in one play on a return.âÄù His longest return was just 30 yards, but twice he was one defender away from a touchdown run. Stoudermire hasn’t brought back a touchdown this year, despite being third in the Big Ten in kickoff return average coming into the game. âÄúI always think about that every time I watch film,âÄù he said. âÄúIt’s always one guy I have to miss. One day I’m going to run straight through everybody and house one.âÄù The Gophers have tried to find places to use the athletic Stoudermire, playing him at defensive back early in the year and more recently putting him at wide receiver and running back. Saturday he lined up as a receiver and took a direct snap on a designed run play. âÄúHe can really do some things,âÄù head coach Tim Brewster said. âÄúWe’re trying to incorporate him more into the offense all the time because he’s a playmaker, and obviously that’s what we lack. We lack guys that are dynamic with the football, and Troy is certainly one of those guys.âÄù Stoudermire was one of four players to commit to the Gophers last year from Skyline High School in Dallas, where he played quarterback and receiver and scored 24 touchdowns his senior year. He also returned every kickoff and punt for his team, he said, and ran back eight touchdowns his senior season. âÄúI know I can have that kind of impact up here. I just got to wait for my turn,âÄù Stoudermire said. âÄúI came over to the offense in the middle of the season, so I just have to learn the system and wait for my chance because when I get it I’m gonna strike. Strike hard.âÄù Stoudermire said his stint at defensive back, which he had little experience playing, is probably over and that he will be focusing on becoming a more reliable receiver. He has two catches for 13 yards this year. The need for another quality receiver was clear Saturday, as the team gained a season-low 105 yards through the air after Eric Decker missed the entire second half with a sprained ankle. âÄúTroy’s one of those guys that can take a 3- or 4-yard catch and turn it into an 80-yard touchdown run,âÄù tight end Jack Simmons said. âÄúIt’s exciting to have a guy like that back there. I know he’s going to be an explosive guy for us the next couple of years.âÄù