Mason asks for more intensity this week

Aaron Blake

Despite a convincing 42-20 victory and an entrance into the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll at No. 24, Minnesota football coach Glen Mason called Saturday’s performance a “step back” for his team.

“We had a great week of practice,” Mason said. “I don’t know if we’ve ever practiced better than we did last week. But we have to be more intense as a football team. Our basic fundamentals of football have to be better.”

The main things Mason emphasized were missed tackles, poor blocking and a lack of big plays from the offense.

The poor tackling, he said, resulted from a lack of intensity he noticed from his team during the game.

To rectify the situation, Mason and his team will return to the “basics” in practice and try to muster more intensity.

“I can’t do anything about their talent,” Mason said. “But if I make them a fundamentally better football team – and a lot of things go into that – then we should be better or as good as we can be.”

The Gophers coach was willing to give his team credit for some things, though. Among them were the team’s responses to turnovers, aversion to giving up big plays defensively and a reduction in penalties.

He can block, too

Mason had nothing but good things to say about running back Thomas Tapeh and, in particular, his blocking Tuesday.

Tapeh threw several solid blocks, lining up at fullback in front of fellow rushers Marion Barber III and Terry Jackson II. The Gophers scored three touchdowns on option plays with Tapeh lead-blocking for Barber.

“Thomas Tapeh is a physical specimen,” Mason said. “He’s 237 pounds, he can run the ball strong and is able to block. He probably could play defense if we put him over there.”

Ellerson, Kamrath praised

When asked about the biggest surprises on this year’s team, Mason named a pair of unlikely contributors on offense.

Senior quarterback Benji Kamrath has seen action in all three games for Minnesota this season and is 3-for-11 for 73 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

“I’m amazed at the improvement of Benji Kamrath at quarterback,” Mason said. “I really wish he had another year.”

The second player Mason mentioned was starting wide receiver Jared Ellerson, who has 11 catches for 221 yards and two touchdowns starting alongside senior Aaron Hosack.

“To be quite frank, I was about ready to start this season in the wishbone offense because I didn’t think that a (second) receiver could be one of the best 11 guys on the field,” Mason said.

Davis iffy for Saturday

Wisconsin junior running back Anthony Davis’ status for Saturday’s game against North Carolina is in question.

Davis, a second-team All-Big Ten performer last season and Heisman Trophy candidate, sprained his ankle during the Badgers’ (2-1) second possession in a 23-5 loss to UNLV.

“He’s improving every day,” Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said. “We don’t know exactly what his status is yet. We’d like to get him on the field, but it’s a day-to-day thing.”

Davis’ replacement, sophomore Dwayne Smith, carried the ball 18 times for 92 yards and fumbled twice. With the loss, Wisconsin dropped from the national polls.

Krenzel injured, awarded

Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel was named Big Ten co-offensive player of the week for his 273 yards passing and five touchdowns in Saturday’s 44-38 triple-overtime win over North Carolina State.

But an elbow injury which occurred during that performance might sideline him this Saturday.

“A guy that got banged up a little bit that’s not going to work today is Krenzel,” Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said at a Tuesday press conference. “The doctors don’t want him to throw, so he’s not going to work today. He feels as if he’d be ready, but I would call that one a day-to-day.”

Krenzel, who led the No. 5 Buckeyes (3-0) to their first national title since 1970 last season, is backed up by senior Scott McMullen.

Kaeding sets scoring mark

Iowa kicker Nate Kaeding set the 14th-ranked Hawkeyes (3-0) career scoring record in Saturday’s 40-21 win at Iowa State.

The senior made all four of his field goals and all four extra points to set the new Iowa scoring benchmark at 291. His 16 points in the game also tied a school record.

For that, Kaeding was also named Big Ten special teams player of the week.