Gophers’ run game a thing of the past

Minnesota ran for 322 yards against Kent State, but only 109 yards against Cal.

Tyler Rushmeyer

BERKELEY, Calif. – After an impressive rushing outburst against Kent State in the season opener, Minnesota’s ground game was met by a much tougher California defense on Saturday.

The Gophers rushed for 109 yards on 32 attempts in the game for an average of 3.4 yards per carry.

Sophomore Alex Daniels, who earned Big Ten Co-offensive Player of the Week for his rushing performance in the opener, was largely ineffective after Minnesota’s first drive, finishing with 80 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.

Three other running backs combined for 23 yards on seven carries. Senior quarterback Bryan Cupito ran for another 13 yards on four carries.

“We feel like we can run the ball, we’re going to keep trying running the ball Ö and that’s going to be our philosophy for the rest of the season,” Daniels said. “But Cal has a very good defense and they just shut us down tonight.”

Spaeth leads receivers
Minnesota’s offense as a whole looked shaky during the game but senior tight end Matt Spaeth put together one of the most impressive outings of his career, highlighted by a career-high 48-yard reception that spurred the Gophers’ first touchdown.

Spaeth tied his career high with six receptions, finishing with 91 receiving yards, the second most of his career.

Senior Logan Payne had six receptions for 54 yards and redshirt freshman Mike Chambers caught his first career pass, finishing with three receptions for 49 yards.

Minnesota’s wideouts finished with 21 receptions for 243 yards.

Cal runs over defense
Junior running backs Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett gave the Minnesota defense fits as they broke tackles and consistently rushed their way into the defensive backfield.

Lynch finished with 152 yards on 27 carries while Forsett finished with 78 yards on 12 carries. The Bears as a whole finished with 231 yards on 48 carries.

“If you’re going to play tackle football then you have to tackle,” coach Glen Mason said. “To me, that was our biggest downfall defensively Ö I can’t remember when we tackled worse in a ballgame.”

Special teams
The one positive thing Minnesota could take away from the loss was the play of its special teams, which was highlighted by Dominic Jones’ 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second quarter.

“We worked a lot on special teams this week and this is something we schemed all week,” the sophomore strong safety said. “The crease opened-up pretty quick and everyone hit their blocks.”

Sophomore kicker Jason Giannini was 2-of-2 on points after touchdowns and hit a 34-yard field goal attempt to end the first half.

Sophomore punter Justin Kucek averaged 34.6 yards per punt, with a long of 41 and placed one punt inside the 20.

“I was pleased with the kicking game,” Mason said. “That was the one thing that gave us a spark along with the 99-yard return by Dominic Jones.

“Unfortunately we didn’t execute in the other aspects of our game.”