Payne has big game in loss to Wolverines

Mark Remme

Senior wide receiver Logan Payne constantly is becoming more of an offensive force for Minnesota.

That’s fairly uncommon for a wide receiver in a normally run-heavy Gophers game plan.

Payne caught six passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns Saturday against No. 6 Michigan – a defense which, on average, gave up less than 200 yards passing per game heading into the contest.

“I thought our passing game was pretty efficient,” Payne said. “The coaches made some great play calls and we executed them fairly well.”

With the two touchdowns Saturday, Payne increased his season touchdown reception total to seven. That places him tied for sixth in the Minnesota record book for most receiving touchdowns in a season.

Payne tied two former Gophers along with teammate junior wide receiver Ernie Wheelwright, who caught seven touchdowns in 2004.

Ron Johnson set the record in 2000, when he caught 11 touchdown passes.

Pinnix breaks free

Junior running back Amir Pinnix didn’t have his best rushing performance statistically, but he made a stout Michigan defense look human on Saturday.

Michigan gave up just 74 total yards rushing in four previous games this season, but Pinnix, following in the footsteps of Gophers running backs in previous years, found holes and exploited weaknesses in a defense that gives running backs few opportunities to make big plays.

Pinnix ran the ball 20 times and gained 91 yards, but he did it in a timely fashion. During the first scoring drive, Pinnix picked up 15 yards on a third and seven. Four plays later, he picked up 10 yards on a fourth and three.

On that drive Minnesota was able to capitalize on Michigan’s defense, keying on the run by throwing a 21-yard touchdown to Payne.

Senior quarterback Bryan Cupito said he never lost faith in Minnesota’s ability to run.

“I didn’t have any doubts about our running game,” Cupito said. “They came in only giving up 19 yards a game, but that didn’t really get to me.

“If we weren’t down in the second half and have to throw the ball more, I think we would have run for more yards,” he said.

Tough conference start

By starting 0-2 in conference play, Minnesota is in a situation it has not seen in recent years.

The Gophers last started conference play 0-2 in 2001, when they started off 0-3 with losses to Purdue, Illinois and Northwestern before defeating Michigan State in their fourth game.

Consequently, it was the last year Minnesota failed to reach a bowl game.

It is the fourth time in coach Glen Mason’s 10 years that Minnesota has gone at least the first two conference games without a win.

Passing game depth

Michigan showed offensive firepower from all angles Saturday night.

Junior quarterback Chad Henne was solid, connecting on 17 of 24 pass attempts for 284 yards and three touchdowns.

Those completions were spread among five receivers, four of which had multiple catches in the contest.

Sophomore Mario Manningham added to his recent hot streak. In the past three weeks, Manningham has caught 16 passes for 381 yards and six touchdowns.

Junior Adrian Arrington caught five passes, two for scores, while senior wide receiver Steve Breaston added five receptions of his own.

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said the running game made such an efficient passing game possible.

“I thought our offense in the first half was outstanding,” Carr said. “We ran the football and we got Minnesota to where they had to bring eight guys into the box.”