Gophers bring home the bacon, 49-7

Michael Dougherty

What a difference a week makes.
Last Saturday, the Gophers were wallowing their way a 20-19 loss in the pig slop Indiana tried to pass off as a football field. A week later they were lugging a 63-year old bronze pig off the field as 49-7 victors over arch-rival Iowa.
Senior Parc Williams said he was in a “straight-line sprint” to get his hands on the trophy, while fellow senior Antoine Richard said, “It’s too heavy, I’m not carrying it.”
Either way, Minnesota (5-6, 2-6 in the Big Ten) took back Floyd of Rosedale with a near-perfect rout of the Hawkeyes, meaning the elephantine swine will sit in a Minnesota trophy case for the first time since 1992.
With 348 yards rushing and a 280-yard edge in total offense (501-221), the Gophers thoroughly dominated Iowa.
The only blemish came in the final minute when Hawkeyes running back Robbie Crockett plunged across from a yard out to finally squash the Iowa goose egg.
In the Indiana game, Thomas Hamner scored on a one-yard touchdown run, giving the Gophers their first conference rushing touchdown of the season. Against Iowa, however, Minnesota ran rampant with five rushing touchdowns.
Hamner (18 attempts, 148 yards, one touchdown) and Byron Evans (14-108, one touchdown) became the first Gophers duo to top the century mark since early in the 1995 season.
And quarterback Billy Cockerham shook off some season-long rust to throw two touchdown passes to Luke Leverson and run for two more.
Cockerham, in particular, took the Indiana loss hard. But he said this win took a little of the pain away because it sent off the 17 seniors on the team the right way.
“Last weekend was probably one of the hardest weekends I’ve ever had,” he said. “It would feel good right now if we were accepting a bowl invitation, but we won anyway.
“We wanted to send the seniors off with a big win, and at the same time lay the foundation for next season, and I think we accomplished both.”
Mason said he was especially worried about Minnesota’s ability to bounce back from what he called a “devastating” loss to Indiana, because of the deafening silence after the game.
“I’ve never seen a team down lower than we were,” he said. “There wasn’t a sound in the locker room, on the bus or on the plane. I thought we (coaches) were by ourselves.”
After a sluggish start, the Gophers turned into a quick-strike, big-play team with three one-play touchdown drives and 42 points in the second and third quarters.
Minnesota’s average drive on its seven touchdowns consisted of five plays, 53 yards and took 2:03.
Much of the credit for the offense’s explosion was given to the much-maligned offensive line. A unit that had given up 40 sacks entering the game finally gelled.
Leverson said he was surprised by the way the line pushed the Hawkeyes around.
“All year long those guys have been inconsistent,” Leverson said. “We’re not as talented as the Ohio States and the Florida States, but they play as hard as those guys do.”
University President Mark Yudof and Gov. Arne Carlson addressed the jubilant team in the locker room after the game, and Yudof said the win is an indication of Mason’s coaching ability.
“I think it says a lot about the program,” Yudof said. “Glen Mason has been a terrific choice, and he has brought them along well by getting 105 and 110 percent out of his athletes.”
Rarely around these parts does a Gophers coach get a big-game ice water bath during the closing moments, but Mason’s blue shirt and gold tie were soaking wet.
“It was cold,” he said of the celebratory bath. “I had ice down my shorts and the whole thing. I’m just glad it wasn’t Gatorade — that stuff’s sticky.”
Rushing — Hamner 18-148, 1 TD; Evans 14-108, 1 TD; Cockerham 13-57, 2 TD; Henderson 2-35, 1 TD; Bean 1-0.
Passing — Cockerham 9-23-1 139, 2 TD; Persby 1-1 14; Bruce 0-1.
Receiving — Leverson 5-107, 2 TD; Jones 2-19; Bruce 1-14; Johnson 1-7; Henderson 1-6.