Gophers trounce Troy State 48-7

by Brett Angel

Complaints from anybody on the Minnesota football roster were hard to find late Saturday night after the Gophers wrapped up their second blowout victory in the past two weeks.

Spurred by a dominant performance by its defense and an impressive showing by the running game, Minnesota crushed visiting Troy State 48-7 in front of 31,393 at the Metrodome.

Even Minnesota coach Glen Mason, who was only mildly satisfied by his team’s 49-10 drubbing over Tulsa last week, was impressed by the Gophers’ performance Saturday.

“I thought we dominated the game offensively, defensively and in the kicking game,” Mason said.

Five different Minnesota players gained at least 50 yards on the ground as the Gophers eclipsed the 300-yard mark in total rushing.

Running backs Terry Jackson II (68 yards), Marion Barber III (62), Thomas Tapeh (54), Laurence Maroney (52) and quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq (54) all proved unstoppable against a Troy State defense ranked fourth in the nation in total defense in 2002.

Abdul-Khaliq finished the game 10 for 16, passing for 171 yards and a touchdown through the air in addition to his 54 yards and one touchdown rushing.

Wide receiver Aaron Hosack got behind the Troy State secondary twice for big plays and finished with three catches for 105 yards and a touchdown.

“We didn’t match up well against them; we didn’t do a lot of things very well,” Troy State coach Larry Blakeney said. “We certainly kept our defense out there too much.”

It was the second consecutive lopsided defeat for the Trojans who mustered just 90 yards of total offense through the first three quarters. Troy State opened the season last week by falling 41-5 at Kansas State.

Minnesota moved the ball at will from the outset, driving 50 yards on its opening drive, but was kept off the scoreboard early when Abdul-Khaliq was intercepted in the end zone by Derrick Ansley. It was the Gophers’ first turnover of the season.

But the Minnesota defense took over from there.

A unit that failed to create a single turnover in the season-opener forced fumbles on each of Troy State’s next two possessions – the second leading to a 52-yard Rhys Lloyd field goal to give the Gophers an early 3-0 lead.

“We put a big emphasis this week on getting some turnovers,” Minnesota defensive lineman Darrell Reid said. “We were actually one short of our goal (of three), but giving the offense two more opportunities to score is definitely big in any game.”

Lloyd’s first field goal attempt for Minnesota had distance to spare as it reached the net beyond the goal posts.

After the Minnesota defense again forced the Trojans to punt, the offense drove 80 yards in just 2:36, capped by an 8-yard Barber touchdown run – his fourth score in just two games this year.

The Gophers’ offense put double-digits on the scoreboard in each quarter and the defense shutout the Trojans until quarterback Aaron Leak sneaked one-yard across the goal line on fourth-and-goal with 6:41 left in the game to make it 41-7.

But after Troy State used 20 plays and nearly eight minutes to finally get in the end zone, the Gophers got it all back in 11 seconds when Maroney returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown and the game’s final score.

It was the most obvious example of a revamped Minnesota special teams unit which displayed few weaknesses Saturday night.

Lloyd was two-for-two in his first-ever field goal attempts with the team and Barber also returned a punt 48 yards at the end of the third quarter.

Of all the positives for Minnesota from Saturday’s game, Mason said he was most pleased about finally seeing some big plays made on the special teams.

And while the Gophers came into the game as 27-point favorites, their coach was relieved it was finally over after watching numerous upsets in college football’s top 25 earlier in the day.

“I was nervous about this game,” Mason admitted. “This ballclub was a lot more talented than Tulsa.” – But not talented enough.

Mason and the Gophers have no complaints about being 2-0.