Mortensen inconsistent in first collegiate start

Tony Mortensen started for Bryan Cupito, who missed Saturday’s game.

David McCoy

Minnesota football coach Glen Mason elected to start backup Tony Mortensen over Bryan Cupito, who had an injured shoulder and suffered a concussion after getting knocked out of the fourth quarter in Minnesota’s 23-20 win over Michigan on Oct. 8.

Mortensen looked sharp at times, but threw his share of poor passes as well.

Though he made an impressive pass to tight end Matt Spaeth for a 5-yard touchdown early in the second quarter, Mortensen’s interception on the next drive was well overthrown.

Asked if he would stick with Mortensen through the bye week, Mason’s response was not revealing.

“I don’t know,” he said. “The best quarterback will play.”

Mason said he knew after Tuesday’s practice that Cupito would not be playing. Cupito threw some passes during warm-ups before the game, and dressed without shoulder pads.

Mason said Cupito should be ready for Minnesota’s Oct. 29 game against Ohio State.

“Bryan Cupito wanted to play,” Mason said. “And he was cleared by our medical staff. But I thought the right thing to do was play Mortensen and the best interest of Bryan was not to play him. I didn’t want Bryan to go out there and get hurt again and then be sore for the next one because he’s got a sore shoulder.”

Mortensen was 7-of-17 for 99 yards. He threw just two passes in the second half – both incomplete. Minnesota has now completed only one second-half pass in the past two games.

Mortensen also did not involve the running backs in the passing game, something that had become successful for the Gophers as of late.

But running back Gary Russell said the absence of Cupito did not hurt the passing game.

“Not really,” Russell said. “The passing situations we did have, they weren’t blitzing, which surprised me. Tony did a great job.”

Other injuries

Right tackle Tony Brinkhaus left the game in the fourth quarter with an injury. His status has not yet been disclosed.

Linebacker Mike Sherels was held out for the second straight week. He did not dress for the game. Safeties Terrance Campbell and Brandon Owens both missed Saturday’s game as well.

Left tackle Joe Ainslie returned to action Saturday, but did not start. Ainslie had been out since leaving the first game of the season at Tulsa.

Gophers drop from poll

With the loss, Minnesota fell out of the AP poll. The

Gophers remained in the USA Today poll at No. 25. Wisconsin moved to No. 19 in the AP poll and No. 17 in the USA Today poll.