Maroney, Gophers dust Tulsa in opener

David McCoy

He cut left, broke a couple of tackles, and then was gone.

Minnesota running back Laurence Maroney recorded his 67-yard touchdown on the first play of the game Thursday night in Tulsa, Okla.

By the time he was done, Maroney had racked up a career-high 203 rushing yards and two touchdowns, leading the Gophers to a 41-10 win in front of 33,410 at Skelly Stadium.

“They said, ‘Laurence, we need a big play from you on the first play,'” Maroney said. “I said, ‘Give me great blocking like you always do, and I’ll take it to the house.’ That’s what happened.”

Altogether, Minnesota’s rushing attack was its usual dominant self, racking up 301 yards. Gary Russell added another 67 yards on six carries and two rushing touchdowns.

While he was pleased with running all over a nonconference opponent that ranked 106th out of 117 teams in the nation in rushing defense last year, coach Glen Mason wasn’t completely satisfied.

“There are two ingredients in offensive football – big plays and consistency,” Mason said. “Where the heck was our consistency?”

Indeed, much of Minnesota’s rushing yardage came on big plays. Maroney’s other touchdown was a 73-yarder late in the first quarter. And most of Russell’s yardage came on big runs of 25 and 35 yards.

Minnesota quarterback Bryan Cupito was solid for the most part, finishing 14-of-25 for 235 yards. The quarterback was intercepted on Tulsa’s 1-yard line by Nick Graham with the Gophers driving.

“That’s the stuff that bothers me,” Cupito said. “I just tried to jam it in. Just need more consistency.”

But he came back on the next drive and threw a touchdown pass to Ernie Wheelwright with 10 seconds left in the first half, giving the Gophers a 24-3 lead.

After Minnesota’s Jason Giannini kicked his second field goal of the night, the Golden Hurricane cut the lead to 27-10 on a four-yard pass from David Johnson to Ryan Bugg. Gary Russell’s touchdowns finished the game on a high note for the Gophers.

“A lot of programs strive all year to rush for 300 yards,” Mason said. “We did it tonight, but I don’t think we did a very good job.”