Gophers must now deal with decimated hopes and dreams

Four weeks ago, the Gophers were ranked 13th, undefeated and rolling into Michigan.

Dan Miller

Minnesota’s football team will spend the next week of practice trying to figure out what happened in the latest dip of a rollercoaster season.

The Gophers (6-3, 3-3 Big Ten) coaches and players seemed perplexed and dismayed after Saturday’s 30-21 loss to Indiana. They’re still trying to figure out how such a highly anticipated season could have gone awry.

“We didn’t expect to be here at the beginning of the season,” defensive tackle Mark Losli said.

On Sunday, Gophers coach Glen Mason directed blame away from the Gophers players and took responsibility for the team’s sporadic play.

Mason said he was pleased with the players’ work ethic and he was just frustrated with the situation.

Nobody’s blaming him for that.

Just four weeks ago, the Gophers were ranked 13th nationally and were going into Ann Arbor, Mich., with an unblemished record. Now, the Gophers find themselves at 6-3 and without even one vote in the Associated Press top-25 poll.

Rose Bowl talk was still in full swing among the Gophers even after the Michigan game. But the last three weeks have been a heavy dose of extra-strength reality.

“We don’t really know what happened,” Gophers cornerback Ukee Dozier said. “It’s just shock right now.”

With Wisconsin (8-0) and Iowa (6-2) still on the schedule, the Gophers’ bowl opportunities are running low. One loss would almost certainly put the Gophers in a position for either the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., or the Motor City Bowl in Detroit.

With the bleak outlook, morale issues have to be paramount for Gophers coaches and players alike.

“I don’t know how we’ll respond, but it’s all pride right now,” Dozier said. “We know we’re bowl eligible. We just have to go out there, suck it up and play.”

Losli said, “It’s disappointing – especially knowing we can play better.”

Traveling Saturday to Madison, Wis. to play the fifth-ranked Badgers, the Gophers don’t have much time to feel sorry for themselves.

Saturday in Madison would be a good time to show it.

“I’m not really worried about the postseason right now,” Mason said. “We’ve got Wisconsin coming up.”

Iowa game time set

The Big Ten office announced Monday that Minnesota’s game against Iowa on Nov. 13 will be broadcast on ESPN starting at 11 a.m.

The game at the Metrodome will be the Gophers’ third match televised by ESPN this season.

Maroney, Barber update

Running back Marion Barber III needs a big day against a tight Wisconsin run defense to set an unprecedented NCAA record.

If Barber rushes for 115 yards, he will pass the 1,000-yard milestone, and he and Laurence Maroney – who surpassed the mark Saturday – will have each reached 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season.

Dozier close to record

Dozier needs one pass breakup against Wisconsin to become Minnesota’s career all-time leader.

Michael Lehan (1999-2002) currently holds the school record with 31 pass breakups.