Gophers get another 1,000-yard rusher

Tyler Rushmeyer

Minnesota has a history of explosive running back tandems in recent memory and another one appears to be forming as the 2006 season winds down.

Junior running back Amir Pinnix rushed for 119 yards Saturday to bring his season total to 1,093, giving Minnesota a 1,000-yard rusher for the eighth straight season.

Pinnix’s efforts, coupled with the emergence of redshirt freshman Jay Thomas, have given the Gophers a formidable duo heading into next month’s bowl game.

Thomas had a career day with 128 all-purpose yards, and has established himself as a compliment to Pinnix throughout the course of the last three weeks.

Thomas, who suffered a serious knee injury prior to last year’s Music City bowl, has been eased back into the offense this season.

He said the combination of a passing and rushing game has helped Minnesota return to a bowl this season.

“We are doing what we need to do to get our running game going, which has opened up our passing game,” he said. “Both of them complement each other, so it works hand-in-hand when we do that.”

Pinnix said he appreciates the efforts of a fellow running back late in the season.

“Jay did unbelievable today. He’s been doing a great job these last three weeks,” he said. “I am so happy for him. He has put in his time and helped us out a lot.”

Cupito records

Senior quarterback Bryan Cupito completed his regular season Saturday in historic company.

His 2,556 yards, 195 completions and 19 touchdowns this season rank third, fourth and second respectively in Minnesota single-season history.

For his career, Cupito continued to add to his top mark. He now sits at 7,183 yards, 494 completions and 52 touchdowns for his career, which rank first, second and second, respectively, in Minnesota career history.

Cupito was modest about his achievements following Saturday’s game.

“Well, I’ve had some great players around me and we’ve had great running backs and great tight ends and receivers in the system since I’ve been here,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to make plays with guys like that around you.”

Receivers climb charts

Senior tight end Matt Spaeth, who is contemplating shoulder surgery prior to next month’s bowl, finished the season as Minnesota’s highest producing tight end in school history.

quote of the game

“The difference is the attitude. When we’ve been in trouble, the defense has stepped up to make the big play and that’s led to our success over the last three weeks.”
– Senior linebacker Mario Reese

Already the top-ranking tight end in career numbers, Spaeth finished the regular season with 47 receptions for 564 yards, setting the single-season highs for a tight end. He now sits 12th in career receiving history with 1,293 yards.

player of the game

Mike Sherels
#58 Junior Linebacker

With 14 tackles and a momentum-shifting interception at the end of the first half, Sherels led Minnesota’s defense to a five-turnover day in a 27-17 win. The interception was Sherels’ second of the season and the third of his career.
— Mark Heise

Senior Logan Payne finished the regular season with 56 receptions for 786 yards, which rank ninth and 11th respectively in Gophers’ single-season history. He now sits at 11th in career receiving yards with 1,326.

With his 64 receiving yards Saturday, junior wide receiver Ernie Wheelwright moved to sixth all-time in career receiving yardage with 1,657.