While questions still surround Minnesota’s defensive stability, one thing the Gophers did prove in their 44-0 win at Kent State is that they’re going to be aggressive.
The defense showed it can apply a successful pass rush by sacking quarterback Julian Edelman five times and another two tackles for losses.
Defensive end Steve Davis highlighted the pressure by recording two of the sacks as part of his five tackles.
The Gophers showed a rare ability to create turnovers by intercepting Edelman three times and recovering three Kent State fumbles. Minnesota forced just 15 turnovers all of last season.
“Anytime you’ve got a chance to get a turnover on defense, you get it,” coach Glen Mason said. “We’ve had chances before, and we’ve dropped them. Everybody says, ‘Nice play,’ but it’s just an incomplete pass.”
Cornerback Jamal Harris recorded his second and third career interceptions. It was the first time a Gophers player had two interceptions in one game since Michael Lehan in the 2002 Music City Bowl against Arkansas.
Cupito used sparsely but efficiently
Quarterback Bryan Cupito wasn’t asked to do a lot in Minnesota’s 44-0 win against Kent State, but he performed when he was called upon.
Cupito showed pocket poise while completing eight of his 13 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown.
“We have the ability to throw the ball better than anybody realizes,” Mason said.
Senior tight end Matt Spaeth emerged as Cupito’s go-to target, hauling in three receptions for 58 yards against Kent State.
Shaky run defense gives hope to Kent State ground game
Despite its ability to create turnovers and apply a pass rush, Minnesota’s defense looked shaky at times against Kent State’s running attack.
The Gophers allowed 67 yards rushing to redshirt freshman Eugene Jarvis in the first half. Jarvis finished the game with 109 yards on the ground.
Flashes coach Doug Martin said he was impressed with what he saw from his offense aside from the turnovers, especially in the improvement at the running back position.
“If you’re a Kent state fan and you watch Eugene Jarvis run and you’re not excited about that then you know, I don’t know what to tell you,” Martin said.
Mason returns to Kent State
Gophers coach Glen Mason made his first trip back to Kent State since leaving his first head coaching position to take over at Kansas after the 1987 season.
Mason spent two years coaching the Flashes, posting a 12-10 record, highlighted by a 7-4 mark in 1987.
“Seems like yesterday we were coaching here,” Mason said. “It was fun to come back.”
Mason is now 2-0 lifetime against the Flashes. He defeated Kent State 28-21 at home while coaching Kansas in 1989.
Matchups to watch
Minnesota opens the 2006 season with an unusual scheduling pattern.
The Gophers will follow up their victory at Kent State with a trip to California next week before coming home to face Temple.
While the Bears (who lost 35-18 at No. 23 Tennessee on Saturday) came into the season ranked ninth in the nation by the Associated Press, both Kent State and Temple are considered two of the 10 worst teams in Division 1-A.