Football team keeps grip on reality despite blowout loss

Brian Stensaas

As if there was ever a good time to be handed a setback, Minnesota’s football team received a dose of harsh reality last Saturday against Ohio State. Just when things were rolling forward for the Gophers – a 7-1 record, the leading rusher in the Big Ten, a national ranking – they began going backwards. Negative six yards, to be precise.

That’s the total net yardage the team managed to put up in the third quarter en route to a dismal 34-3 loss to the Buckeyes.

Collectively, the team sucked it up and ran off the field when the final seconds melted off the Horseshoe clock in Columbus. Though their faces weren’t cracking the smiles they had after the seven wins, coach Glen Mason is confident the frowns won’t last long.

“It’s amazing to me that all of a sudden, everybody thinks the world swings on one game,” Mason said. “It shouldn’t and it doesn’t. You can’t allow yourself to even think on those terms because you have an opponent staring at you straight in the face (that) may or may not have anything weighing in the balance.”

After running into a brick wall in third-ranked Ohio State (10-0, 5-0 Big Ten), gaining a season-low 53 yards on the ground, the Gophers (7-2, 3-2) face a team this Saturday with a whole lot occupying the scales.

No. 13 Michigan comes to town this weekend, fresh off a schooling of its own, a 49-3 win over Michigan State. The Wolverines (7-2, 4-1) are still in contention to win the Big Ten title and hold the third best rushing defense in the conference, allowing only 106.2 yards per game.

Before running for only 49 yards last weekend, Gophers running back Terry Jackson II was averaging 128.8 yards per game alone.

He knows he cannot afford another showing like the one against the Buckeyes, if Minnesota expects to finish the season strong and make a decent showing in a postseason bowl.

“Hopefully (Saturday) was the end to our bad play,” Jackson said. “We just have to go on positive. Stay optimistic. There’s no point in giving up now. There’s a lot to go. We can still do this.”

Mason believes his team, though young and inexperienced at handling the spotlight, will put the loss to Ohio State behind them and step right back into it all this week.

“You can’t allow yourself to get caught up in the hype of getting too high with any victory or too low with any defeat,” Mason said. “Every week is a new chapter in your book.”

Nystrom a Groza finalist

minnesota senior kicker Dan Nystrom has been named one of 20 finalists for the Lou Groza Award, which is given annually to one of college football’s top placed kickers. Nystrom is one of three Big Ten kickers on the list, joining Ohio State’s Mike Nugent and Iowa’s Nate Kaeding.

Nystrom is 11-for-12 on field goal attempts this season and a perfect 32-for-32 on extra point attempts. He is the Gophers’ all-time scoring leader with 330 points and his 62 career field goals puts him fourth all-time in the Big Ten.

The list of 20 finalists will be trimmed to three Nov. 18.

Brian Stensaas covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]