Stoudermire 45 yards short of Big Ten record

Josh Katzenstein

Troy Stoudermire needs just 45 yards to break the Big Ten record for kickoff return yards held by former Michigan State star Derrick Mason.

The junior averages about 25 yards per return, so unless the Gophers shut out Purdue on Saturday, he should have a chance to break the record.

But Stoudermire said he didnâÄôt know about the record until rumors of him leaving the program began to surface.

Stoudermire was suspended for the Sept. 25 game against Northern Illinois because he posted a Facebook status discussing his intent to leave the program.

Media coverage of the episode noted his closing in on the record, and Stoudermire said his mother told him about it, but it had no bearing on his decision to remain with the team.

âÄúI really wasnâÄôt paying attention to the record,âÄù said Stoudermire, who has 2,530 career kickoff return yards. âÄúIt means a lot, but what means more to me is my team. The record really didnâÄôt mean anything to me.

âÄúItâÄôs just a record to break, and IâÄôm pretty sure IâÄôll break it soon.âÄù

In the two games since his suspension, Stoudermire, who started the season at wide receiver, has only played on special teams in part because he was relearning how to play cornerback.

Stoudermire played cornerback during his freshman season in 2008, but made the switch to wide receiver later that season.

After a few weeks of practice with the defense, Stoudermire is listed as freshman Brock VereenâÄôs backup at cornerback and will likely play Saturday. Stoudermire also worked with the first-team defense Tuesday.

âÄúI think Troy’s real close to being ready to help us,âÄù coach Tim Brewster said.

One of the reasons Brewster moved Stoudermire to the defense was to help with man coverage. After a few weeks of work, though, Stoudermire said heâÄôs comfortable playing zone.

Although Stoudermire said he wishes he could have helped more during the last three Gophers losses, his kickoff returns have kept him on the record-setting pace and 16 yards ahead of current Wisconsin senior and Robbinsdale Armstrong graduate David Gilreath.

Conference record aside, Stoudermire said he wants to return a kickoff for a touchdown, something he has yet to do. Some of his teammates have called him the âÄú50-cent guyâÄù because he often gets halfway.

âÄúRight now my mindset is just hit it 100 percent full speed no matter what happens,âÄù he said.

BrewâÄôs got your back

The Minnesota football team arguably received more national attention after SaturdayâÄôs 41-23 loss at Wisconsin than it has all season.

After the game, Brewster pointed and yelled at Badgers coach Bret Bielema for attempting a two-point conversion with the game out of reach in the fourth quarter.

Brewster said heâÄôs âÄúheard from a number of coachesâÄù regarding his actions that also included a more-than-firm handshake with Bielema, but declined to say whether or not the coaches supported his moves.

The Gophers players, though, were glad to see that the coach looked out for them.

âÄúTo have a coach thatâÄôs going to fight for you no matter what the circumstances, thatâÄôs always a great thing,âÄù junior running back Duane Bennett said. âÄúWhen you get a chance to actually see it happen, then you know that itâÄôs not a game [and] itâÄôs not just words.âÄù

Still looking for the hot RB

Brewster has said all season that the running back with the hot hand in a game would see more carries as it wore on.

Junior DeLeon Eskridge earned the start ahead of Bennett last week against Wisconsin after running for 119 yards and a touchdown against Northwestern.

âÄúItâÄôs a team-oriented game,âÄù Bennett said. âÄúAs a competitor you go back and try to look at what you can do differently to try to change the situation. I wasnâÄôt angry or anything because when youâÄôre angry then you start to play outside of yourself and hinder your performance.âÄù

Freshman running back Donnell Kirkwood has missed the last two games but was walking around without a boot on his leg after practice Tuesday. He suffered a hamstring injury before the Northwestern game.

Extra points

– Brewster said David Schwerman took the final kickoff Saturday for Eric Ellestad because Ellestad, the starter, suffered a hip flexor during the game.

Brewster said he does not know EllestadâÄôs status, but Schwerman would start if he cannot.

– Sophomore linebacker Mike Rallis has moved up to probable for Saturday after missing the last two games and most of the Northern Illinois game. He suffered an abdominal injury during the Sept. 18 game against Southern California.