Penalties plague Gophers

Miscues hurt Minnesota in loss.

Marco LaNave

If a team shoots itself in the foot by committing penalties, the Gophers probably cannot walk after Saturday. From the opening kickoff to the final onside kick of their 31-28 loss to Wisconsin , the Gophers suffered from their own miscues, losing 75 yards on nine penalties âÄî many of them coming at critical times. âÄúWe canâÄôt self-inflict wounds on ourselves, and particularly against a good opponent,âÄù head coach Tim Brewster said. The Gophers were penalized for holding on two of their first three kickoff returns. Both times, sophomore Troy Stoudermire returned the ball beyond the Minnesota 45-yard line, but the Gophers ended up on their own 37 and 16. The latter led to a three-and-out series. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on senior cornerback Traye Simmons extended a Wisconsin drive in the second quarter. After Badgers quarterback Scott Tolzien threw an incomplete pass to wide receiver David Gilreath , Simmons taunted Gilreath, resulting in a 15-yard penalty that turned a potential third-and-10 at the Badgers 45-yard line into a first down for Wisconsin at the Minnesota 40. The drive ended in a field goal that tied the game 10-10. âÄúEveryone gets a little emotional in a big rivalry,âÄù senior cornerback Marcus Sherels said. âÄú[WeâÄôve] just got to play smart.âÄù The most costly penalties came when the Gophers were on the verge of scoring. The Gophers had first and goal at the Wisconsin 1-yard line in the second quarter, but sophomore left guard Chris Bunders was called for an illegal chop block, pushing Minnesota back 15 yards. The Gophers had to settle for a field goal that gave them a 13-10 lead. âÄúAny time you get penalties like that, it kills momentum,âÄù junior quarterback Adam Weber said. âÄúWe always like to believe that we can bounce back, but in this game, we just werenâÄôt able to.âÄù Perhaps the most painful penalty, however, drove the Gophers out of a potential score altogether. Midway through the third quarter, on a third-and-2 play at the Wisconsin 18-yard line, sophomore running back DeLeon Eskridge carried the ball to the Badgers 2. The play was erased by a holding penalty on junior tight end Collin McGarry . Then on third-and-12 at the 28-yard line, WeberâÄôs pass bounced off EskridgeâÄôs hands for an interception by Badgers defensive tackle Patrick Butrym . âÄúThe key term there is poise âÄî being poised and making good decisions,âÄù Brewster said of the penalties. âÄúThatâÄôs what we had talked about coming in: we knew our kids were going to be on an emotional high.âÄù Decker breaks another record Senior wide receiver Eric Decker , who leads the Football Bowl Subdivision in receiving yards , had eight receptions for 140 yards Saturday. He now has 3,000 career receiving yards , which pushes him past Ron Johnson (1998-2001, 2,989 yards ) into first place on the Minnesota all-time list. Decker broke JohnsonâÄôs career receptions record earlier this season . âÄúItâÄôs hard to feel good about it, because I would have taken a win far over any records or any single accomplishments,âÄù Decker said. âÄúIâÄôm a team guy and all I care about is, at the end of the season, that we get what we deserve, and I think thatâÄôs a bunch of wins.âÄù DeckerâÄôs fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season and the 11th of his career tied him with Tutu Atwell (1994-97) for the most 100-yard-receiving games in a Gopher career. Triplett, Tow-Arnett hurt Senior linebacker Nate Triplett , who leads the Gophers with 56 tackles this season , was slow to make it off the field twice during a 10-minute span in the fourth quarter. Triplett, who made nine tackles, intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble Saturday, appeared to have injured his left arm on a tackle of Badgers running back John Clay early in the fourth quarter. He returned to the game, but then walked off the field with a noticeable limp after tackling Clay again with just over five minutes to play in the game. His left leg appeared to bend awkwardly as he made the tackle. âÄú[Triplett] got nicked up a little bit âÄî I donâÄôt think itâÄôs anything major; I think he had a stinger in his shoulder,âÄù Brewster said after the game. Then, with under a minute to play, senior center Jeff Tow-Arnett , who has started every game this season at center for the Gophers , had to be helped off the field, unable to put weight on his right leg after a play where it was tangled under a Wisconsin defender. âÄúIâÄôm not sure, weâÄôll see; I donâÄôt think it was anything too major,âÄù Brewster said of Tow-ArnettâÄôs injury. âÄúHopefully, heâÄôll be OK and be ready to go for next week. WeâÄôll see at some point [Sunday].âÄù