Mason stands by play-calling in fourth

Ben Goessling

Minnesota football coach Glen Mason stood by his play-calling on the drive that might have cost the Gophers a win at Michigan on Saturday, saying he didn’t regret departing from the ground game on the Wolverines’ 9-yard line.

The Gophers were up 21-17 when they recovered a fumbled punt and had a chance to put Michigan further away. Mason called a run on first down, but then opted for two rollout passes by quarterback Bryan Cupito, which were incomplete.

The drive took only 53 seconds off the clock and led to a field goal, which wasn’t enough to keep Michigan from coming back.

But Mason didn’t flinch when questioned about the drive Tuesday.

He also challenged the popular theory that a hangover

from Minnesota’s fourth-quarter collapse against Michigan last year led to a 44-38 loss against Michigan State the next week.

“I don’t view it that way. We got behind 17-0 and clawed our way out,” he said. “When I look at that film, it doesn’t look like a bunch of kids with hangovers.”

Cupito said he was as devastated as anybody after Saturday’s loss, blaming the defeat on several overthrows that might have gone for touchdowns.

He said he found even more things to criticize himself for after watching film Sunday, but added he thinks Minnesota has moved on.

“How I could miss those throws, I don’t understand,” he said. “But there’s nothing I can do about it now. You just have to let it go.”

Iowa activates freshman

Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said he is removing the redshirt status from freshman running back Damian Sims to combat Iowa’s recent rash of injuries at the position.

Starter Jermelle Lewis was lost for the season last week, becoming the third Hawkeyes running back to suffer a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament tear in five weeks.

“It’s gotten to the point where we’re almost afraid to practice,” Ferentz said. “But you can’t clam up. You don’t want to get shell-shocked or anything like that.”

Marques Simmons, Iowa’s fourth-string tailback entering the season, is now No. 1 on the depth chart.

JoePa handicaps race

Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who certainly has seen plenty of close finishes in his 39 years as the Lions’ head man, said the Gophers are still very much alive in the Rose Bowl hunt, despite Saturday’s loss.

Fifth-ranked Purdue, No. 10 Wisconsin and the 14th-ranked Wolverines are the only undefeated teams in conference play. The Boilermakers play Wisconsin on Saturday and Michigan next weekend – a scenario Paterno said could benefit Minnesota.

“If all (three) of those teams end up with a loss at some point, Minnesota could be right in there,” Paterno said. “They (took) a blow against Michigan, but Minnesota’s a heck of a football team.”

Paterno, whose team has a bye week after losing 20-13 to Purdue last weekend, said he’s looking forward to the Boilermakers-Badgers tilt.

“We’ll know a lot more about how good Purdue is after that one,” he said.

Extra points

– Minnesota’s home game with Illinois on Saturday will be at 1 p.m. It will not be televised.

– Michigan safety Ernest Shazor was named the Big Ten defensive player of the week after his four tackles for loss against Minnesota. Coach Lloyd Carr said Shazor “played his best game at Michigan.”