It was supposed to last at least another week.
Minnesota’s football team’s game this Saturday at Michigan has been where the team has been tripped up in years past.
Last year, the Wolverines ruined the Gophers’ perfect 5-0 record. And the year before that, a loss to Michigan put an end to a 6-0 Minnesota start.
Now after being brought back to earth a week earlier than expected – and seemingly several yards deep – the Gophers resume practice today in search of answers, after getting humiliated 44-14 at Penn State, and it’s not hard to see why.
“We got embarrassed,” quarterback Bryan Cupito said. “We can bounce back next week and maybe beat Michigan, change it up a little and then go from there. We played terrible. (Penn State) crushed us in every aspect of the game.”
A review of the game doesn’t reveal any surprises. Most obvious was the inability of the Gophers, who came into Saturday’s game as the nation’s top running offense, to simply do what it does best – run the ball.
The Nittany Lions gained more than three times as many rushing yards as the Gophers – 364 to 113 – and likely ended Minnesota running back Laurence Maroney’s Heisman Trophy campaign by holding him to a season-low 48 yards on 16 carries.
“Our defensive scheme was simple,” Penn State cornerback Alan Zemaitis said. “We really needed to almost play an umbrella-type defense. Keep everything in front of you. Be smart. Be disciplined.”
But what was less obvious is what gave Penn State the opportunity to run the ball and what took those opportunities away from Minnesota.
The Lions converted a remarkable 13 of 19 third downs, compared to just seven of 15 for the Gophers. That led to 35 first downs for Penn State – Paterno’s second-most in his 40 years as head coach – compared with just 13 for Minnesota.
Paterno said his team’s ability to stop the Gophers on third down and force Minnesota into three-and-outs provided a major difference in the game.
“It was absolutely vital,” Paterno said. “I think that is what made our offense better. I thought that, as the half went on, the Minnesota kids got a little tired on defense. They played such a tough overtime game against Purdue and then they had to make the trip here (to State College, Pa.) That is not easy.”
Minnesota also lost the turnover battle. For the first time this season, Penn State did not turn the ball over, allowing them to score on eight of its 11 drives.
On the other hand, the Gophers turned the ball over twice. Jakari Wallace’s fumble came as Minnesota was on Penn State’s 32-yard line and served to stifle what probably would have been at least three points for the Gophers. Bryan Cupito’s interception came at the end of the game.
Interestingly, the only two times in the game the Nittany Lions punted were after recovering Minnesota turnovers.
Now with Michigan up next, the Gophers are looking to turn over a new leaf.
“This hurts us, but we can still bounce back,” Cupito said. “Next week’s the game, you guys are probably thinking and talking about, anyway. It’s here now.”
Wisconsin game time set
Minnesota’s game against Wisconsin on Oct. 15 at the Metrodome will kick off at 11 a.m., the Big Ten and ESPN announced Monday.
Schneider player of the week
Senior goalie Molly Schneider was named Big Ten soccer Defensive Player of the Week for her role in Minnesota’s 1-0 shutout victories against Wisconsin and Northwestern. Schneider earned her fourth and fifth shutouts of the season as the Gophers improved their Big Ten record to 3-1.
The Big Ten honored Minnesota volleyball senior libero Paula Gentil by naming her its defensive Player of the Week.
Gentil had 20 digs in both of the Gophers’ matches last week against Michigan State and Michigan.
Gentil has recorded double-digit digs in 59 of her last 60 matches.
Minnesota hockey No. 1
Minnesota’s men’s hockey team is ranked No. 1 in the nation in the USA Today/American Hockey Magazine preseason poll.
The Gophers received half of the 34 first-place votes. Minnesota is ranked No. 2 in the preseason USCHO.com/CSTV poll.
The women’s hockey team starts the season ranked fifth in the USCHO.com poll.