Minnesota anything but happy with sloppy win

Ben Goessling

Minnesota football coach Glen Mason said last week that he couldn’t believe how reserved the Gophers were after beating Toledo 63-21 in their season opener.

“I walked in there and said, ‘Hey, lighten up, fellas, we won the game,’ ” Mason said.

The coach could have said the same thing after Saturday’s shoddy 37-21 win over Division I-AA Illinois State at the Metrodome, but it’s a safe bet he didn’t.

“The postgame speech was a little worse than halftime,” defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery said “He’s just mad we underestimated this team.”

And who could blame Mason?

Consider:

– The Gophers’ offensive line committed three first-quarter false starts, and Mark Setterstrom’s holding penalty wiped out a touchdown on Minnesota’s first drive.

– Minnesota’s defense gave up 480 yards on 89 plays, including 372 through the air, and former Gophers tailback Demetrus Johnson became the first back to rush for 100 yards against the team since Wisconsin’s Anthony Davis on Nov. 23, 2002.

– The team committed 12 penalties for 93 yards, including two pass-interference calls each on corners Trumaine Banks and Ukee Dozier. The Gophers’ Justin Fraley also was flagged for running into the punter, which kept an eventual touchdown drive alive. The score came right after Minnesota fullback Justin Valentine fumbled on Illinois State’s one-yard line.

“I didn’t like any phase of our team today,” Mason said, pounding on a table for emphasis. “Period. End of story.”

Mason scoffed at the notion Minnesota experienced a letdown, but his players thought different.

“It was a mindset. All week, we were saying, ‘We’re a Big Ten team, we should just dominate them,’ ” Montgomery said.

From the game’s first play, the Gophers looked out to lunch. Reserve fullback Jason Lamers called for a fair catch on the opening kickoff and was whistled for a delay of game penalty after he tried to return it.

Marion Barber III lost three yards on Minnesota’s first play from scrimmage, and three plays later Rhys Lloyd punted nine yards out of bounds to the Gophers’ 44 yard line.

The Redbirds yard line needed only three plays to take the lead and silence a crowd of 34,006. Yance Vaughan hooked up with Ramon Barber on a comeback route, and after missed tackles by Banks, Fraley and John Pawielski, Barber had a 39-yard score.

Gophers quarterback Bryan Cupito was nowhere near as sharp as he was in the Gophers’ debut, finishing 10-of-22 for 204 yards and two scores. He fumbled once and was nearly intercepted twice in the first half.

Even after an 80-yard touchdown to Ernie Wheelwright in the third quarter, Cupito wasn’t congratulating himself.

“If I play like that next week, we won’t win,” Cupito said.

Minnesota took the lead for the first time with 8:25 left in the second quarter on a Barber III touchdown. But the Gophers went three-and-out on their next drive.

The Redbirds then went 54 yards in four plays, tying the score at 14 before Barber scored again.

Minnesota was charged with unsportsmanlike conduct for celebrating, and the extra point was blocked.

In a way, it was fitting. Even though the Gophers won, very little went right.

“We got outcoached, we got outplayed, we got outfought,” Mason said. “I feel lucky – and I don’t like to be

lucky – to have won this game.”