Gophers barely beat Bison

Tyler Rushmeyer

Minnesota’s football team escaped with a narrow victory in a tight, hard-fought thriller on Saturday. Unfortunately, that is a problem for a program that is set to face off against the best college football team in the country next weekend.

Against a team that was playing Division II football just three years ago, Minnesota was outplayed on both sides of the ball by a confident and well-coached North Dakota State squad.

But Minnesota, which has perennially been on the losing side of such contests, held on to defeat the Bison 10-9, blocking a last second, 42-yard field goal attempt to walk out of the Metrodome with a victory on a day when it seemed as though the better team lost.

Coach Glen Mason was pleased to finally be on the winning side of such a close contest, one that saw the lowest combined score in a Minnesota football game since 1992.

“It kind of puts a smile on your face when you’ve been outcoached and been outplayed but you win the football game,” he said. “I’m not happy with the way we played, but I’m happy with the outcome.”

Playing in what seemed like an enlarged Fargodome, NDSU fans took over the Metrodome, drowning out any cheers the Gophers faithful attempted.

This required little effort, as Minnesota provided nearly nothing to cheer about, and the only noises emanating from Minnesota fans were the occasional boos and chants for the firing of coach Glen Mason, which the band quickly drowned out.

After the game junior center Tony Brinkhaus acted as though Minnesota had been defeated.

“I felt like we got outplayed in just about every aspect of the game,” he said. “I don’t really know how to feel right now.”

Shutting down the Gophers on their first possession and capitalizing on their first drive with a 30-yard field goal, the Bison seemed to set the tone early.

Minnesota’s offense was terrible in its efficiency throughout the contest, converting just three points from the two turnovers – an interception and muffed punt return – the Bison coughed up at the end of the first quarter.

Sophomore kicker Jason Giannini’s 30-yard field goal tied the game 3-3 to begin the second quarter, but the Bison quickly responded with a 39-yard field goal of their own, after having a 6-yard touchdown pass wiped out on a penalty.

Giannini missed a 40-yard field goal attempt on the Gophers’ next possession and Minnesota headed to the locker room down 6-3 in front of thousands of cheering and chanting Bison fans and either stunned, angry or bored Minnesota fans.

Cupito discussed Mason’s uncharacteristic verbal thrashing of the time at halftime.

“It’s kind of embarrassing how we played today,” Cupito said. “(Mason) was upset at halftime, and he should’ve been.”

The second half began with NDSU freshman kicker Shawn Bibeau missing a 21-yard chip shot.

The score remained 6-3 after the third quarter, one that saw the Gophers amass just 27 yards while having possesion of the ball for just over four minutes.

Minnesota finally broke through at the beginning the fourth quarter with a five-yard rushing touchdown by junior running back Amir Pinnix. It was the Gophers’ only touchdown of the game and it gave them their first lead of the day.

After a Bibeau field goal with a little over five minutes remaining in the game brought the score to 10-9, Minnesota’s offense again faltered, setting up the potential game-winning possession for the Bison.

But a mass of Gophers blocked the final field goal attempt as time expired to collect perhaps one of the least-impressive victories in Minnesota history.

Junior linebacker Mike Sherels had mixed feelings afterward.

“It’s bittersweet. We won, but we won against the team that many thought we should win against,” he said. “A win is a win. It’s very important for us being a 2-5 team to move to 3-5. So goal number one is taken care of. But at the same time we were exposed. We know we got a lot to fix.”