Abdul-Khaliq practices, will likely play vs. Iowa

Aaron Blake

Minnesota football coach Glen Mason couldn’t have been happier to see starting quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq goofing off on Monday.

“I was expecting to walk in (the training room) and see him up on the table with ice,” Mason said. “He had a ball, and he was in there throwing it around and joking around. He threw one at me. That’s a good sign.”

Abdul-Khaliq, who injured his left (non-throwing) shoulder just before halftime in Saturday’s 37-34 win over Wisconsin, practiced Tuesday.

Mason said it looks more likely that Abdul-Khaliq will play for the 19th-ranked Gophers (9-2, 5-2 Big Ten) against the 20th-ranked Hawkeyes (7-3, 3-3) on Saturday.

“He’ll do as much as he can,” Mason said. “I’m going to be smart. It’s Tuesday, and we don’t play till Saturday morning. He’ll be the best indicator of that. But we’re going to take it slow.”

Abdul-Khaliq said he couldn’t lift his arm after the play Saturday. But tests revealed that no separation occurred.

The fifth-year senior did not return to the game, and backup quarterback Benji Kamrath led the team on a game-winning drive in the final three minutes, capped off by a 35-yard Rhys Lloyd field goal as time expired.

Woes against throws

Mason was disappointed in the way the Gophers’ pass defense performed in the later stages of Saturday’s game, referring to both the secondary and front seven.

“Late in the game, we had too many breakdowns,” Mason said. “You can’t have those types of breakdowns. You basically give them some gimmies.”

“We did not blitz very well. It’s one thing to blitz, and it’s another thing to blitz effectively. We’ve got to do a better job there.”

Badgers quarterback Jim Sorgi finished with career highs of 305 yards passing and four touchdowns. In addition, the Gophers were flagged for three pass interference penalties, only one of which anybody on the team agreed with.

“I don’t think it was anything that Wisconsin was doing,” senior safety Eli Ward said. “I think it was pretty much that we were hurting ourselves. Two of the times they scored were just blown coverages.”

Still, Mason recognized that the defense eventually came through, intercepting Sorgi and forcing a three-and-out to set up the game-winning drive.

It’s like red, but not quite

Everyone at Tuesday’s press conference had a good laugh when one of the quirks of Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium was brought up.

Mason confirmed that the holding room between the locker room and the field for the visitors is painted pink and offered an explanation.

“It’s (former Hawkeyes coach) Hayden Fry’s psychology stuff,” Mason said. “It’s a soft color, an easy color, a non-aggressive color. That’s why I’m partial to pink shirts. I wear pink shirts to try to help my personality. I know I need a lot of help with that.

“That pink room is not what I’m worried about. It’s those guys with the black helmets on the field.”

Redux for the Bucks?

Losses by Miami and Florida State on Saturday pushed Ohio State into the top three in the BCS standings, and now there is talk in Columbus of a possible Sugar Bowl appearance for the defending national champions.

Undefeated Oklahoma is first at 1.68, Southern California is second at 6.27 and the Buckeyes are third at 7.73.

“I think that’s fine to be talked about, as long as it’s not us talking about it,” coach Jim Tressel said Tuesday. “If we’re talking about anything other than Purdue, then we’ll join that throng of people next week that all they have to do is talk about it.”

In order to advance to the national championship game, Ohio State must finish in the top two in the BCS standings.

For that to happen, the Buckeyes would have to win versus Purdue and Michigan, while the Trojans would likely have to lose one of their final three games to Arizona, UCLA or Oregon State.

Smith calls out Smoker

Following consecutive losses to Michigan and Ohio State after beginning the Big Ten season 4-0, Michigan State coach John Smith challenged quarterback Jeff Smoker to lead his team to a strong finish.

“This is his calling,” Smith said Tuesday. “He’d better step up to the plate. He’s going to have to bear the brunt of this deal. We’re going to rely on him a lot more.”

The 21st-ranked Spartans (7-3, 4-2) have two games remaining, playing at Wisconsin and at home against Penn State.

Robinson back at tailback

Penn State sophomore quarterback Michael Robinson, who had been phased out of the Lions offense since regular starter Zach Mills returned from injury Oct. 25, will likely be Penn State’s main tailback for the time-being.

Robinson rushed for 47 yards on 15 carries Saturday in a 17-7 loss to Northwestern. The Lions’ (2-8, 0-6) other two tailbacks – freshmen Austin Scott and Tony Hunt – did not touch the ball.

“I thought that we were getting to a point where we were playing some tough teams,” coach Joe

Paterno said. “I felt that, maybe, we were putting too much pressure on Austin Scott and Tony Hunt.”

Robinson first filled in at quarterback when Mills was hurt in the first quarter against Minnesota on Sept. 27. He also started the Lions’ first two games of the season at tailback.