Two-man attack at quarterback still can’t beat Wildcats

When Travis Cole took over the starting quarterback job for the Gophers before the Illinois game on Sept. 30, Minnesota coach Glen Mason assured football fans Asad Abdul-Khaliq would still be a factor this season.
Week after week passed with no sign of Abdul-Khaliq’s return to the lineup.
Until Saturday.
Minnesota displayed a new offensive game plan in the Gophers 41-35 loss to Northwestern — an offense featuring a rotation of both quarterbacks.
Cole was used mainly in passing situations, while Abdul-Khaliq entered the game on short-yardage running situations.
Mason said the new look, which garned five touchdowns on 436 yards of total offense was effective. Abdul-Khaliq agreed.
“It was executed exactly the way it was supposed to be,” Abdul-Khaliq said. “They put me in situations where we wanted to run the ball or go play-action, and it worked to our ability.”
Abdul-Khaliq completed one of two pass attempts for 20 yards while rushing for 49 yards and two touchdowns.
Cole racked up 259 yards of total offense (251 passing, eight rushing) and one touchdown.
After starting the past five games, Cole wasn’t bothered by the move to mix up the offense.
“I didn’t have any problems with Asad coming in. He does things a little better on short yardage or running play,” Cole said.
Good, bad and ugly
Minnesota’s special teams had an up-and-down day.
First the good.
Tellis Redmon broke a school record with an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter.
“After the first two guys missed, the hole was just wide open,” Redmon said. “I just used my speed and tried not to get caught.”
The Gophers also added a touchdown on a fake punt in the second quarter. On a fourth and 18 from Northwestern’s 45-yard line, punter Preston Gruening hooked-up with wide receiver Elvin Jones for the score.
Gruening said the Wildcats gave the Gophers the look they wanted in that situation.
“I almost can’t even see Elvin when he runs out there, but I know where he is,” Gruening said. “I just threw it out there, he was open, and it worked out pretty great.”
Now the bad.
Kicker Dan Nystrom missed two field goals (51 and 43 yards) in the first and fourth quarters.
The second field goal attempt would have given Minnesota a 38-28 lead with just over five minutes to play in the game.
Finally the ugly.
Northwestern’s Teddy Johnson’s 93-yard kick-off return in the second quarter set-up the Wildcats second touchdown, which cut the Gophers lead to 21-14.
Tapeh out for year
Mason announced running back Thomas Tapeh is out for the year with a foot injury. The redshirt freshman was injured in practice Wednesday.
Other than Tapeh, Mason said there were no other injuries from last week’s practice or Saturday’s game.
Riley sets record
Defensive end Karon Riley recorded one sack against the Wildcats and moved into first place on Minnesota’s all-time career sack list with 24. Riley moved ahead of Lamanzer Williams (1994-97) who had 23.5 career sacks.

John R. Carter and Sarah Mitchell cover football and welcome comments at [email protected] and [email protected]