Mason displeased with missed assignment

Aaron Blake

Minnesota football coach Glen Mason was pleased with how his team played as a whole in Saturday’s 20-14 win at Penn State. One of the only faults he saw was that the Gophers forced him to sweat a little more than he would have liked down the stretch.

Leading 17-14, the Minnesota (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) offense grinded the ball down the field after safety Justin Fraley picked off Michael Robinson’s offering on the Gophers’ 36. Once the Gophers reached the red zone, however, the momentum came to a halt.

“Probably the most disappointing thing in the game, for me, was when we had first-and-10 at the 11-yard line,” Mason said. “If we score there, the game is out of question. On first down, we had a missed assignment. Without that missed assignment, our guy walks into the end zone.”

On that first down play, Marion Barber III caught a pitch from quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq and swept left. Barber gained just two yards, and the Gophers went backward from then on.

A 30-yard Rhys Lloyd field goal put No. 21 Minnesota up by six points and made the Lions go for the touchdown after they drove deep into Gophers territory.

Still, Mason doesn’t want to let the eventual victory take the emphasis off the mistake or what could have resulted from the botched assignment.

Lloyd is a cool customer

One of the toughest tasks any kicker faces is pressure situations. Before Saturday, coaches and fans had no way to gauge how Lloyd would respond in such situations.

But in the Gophers’ first game, decided by less than three touchdowns, Lloyd passed the test,

Besides the 30-yarder to make it a six-point game, the junior college transfer connected on a 44-yarder in the second quarter to put the score at 17-7. Before the game, gusts of wind were measured at 20-25 miles per hour.

“He seems like the kind of guy that if he had a 3-foot putt to win the Masters, he’d pull the putter out, not even line it up, and knock it in,” Mason said. “That’s how he is. It’s great. He doesn’t seem to be phased by much.

“We’re all just speculating at this point. But my guess is that he’ll handle (the pressure) as well as anybody.”

MSU’s Smith is unsatisfied

Michigan State (4-1, 1-0) is showing big progress following a disappointing 2002 season. After a loss to Louisiana Tech in their third game, the Spartans beat Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., on Sept. 20 and No. 9 Iowa (4-1, 0-1) last week.

Accompanying this pair of victories was entrance into the Associated Press poll this week at No. 25. But coach John L. Smith is far from impressed to this point.

“I’ve told (the team) that we haven’t done one thing that is, in our opinion, worthy of us being ranked anything,” Smith said. “So my guys better look in the mirror and see the real people that are there. We’ve not played anywhere near what we’re capable of or anywhere near where we should. Look at the video, and be honest with yourself. We’re not a good football team yet.”

Davis still first in Madison

Despite an award-winning week for backup tailback Dwayne Smith, Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez shrugged at the notion of Heisman Trophy candidate Anthony Davis sharing carries when healthy enough to return to action.

Smith was named Big Ten offensive player of the week after recording 193 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries in a 38-20 victory over Illinois. Davis missed his second straight week with a sprained left ankle, but still has 425 yards and four scores with a 7.0 yards per carry average.

“Dwayne Smith certainly is deserving of offensive player of the week,” Alvarez said. “He got a lot of yards after contact.

“But Anthony’s our tailback. I think he’s too special. It’s obvious Dwayne’s a very solid back in his own right. We want to keep people fresh, but I’m not going to rotate.”