Football hopes to capitalize on D-1AA opponent

Anthony Maggio

Finally, the eve of the most anticipated moment in Minnesota football this season is upon the University. Excitement generated by Saturday’s game has left Gophers fans far and wide unable to sleep.

Yes, the Murray State Racers are in town for an epic matchup with Minnesota.

But all sarcasm aside, the Gophers do face the Racers this weekend, and Murray State coach Joe Pannunzio knows his team’s chances aren’t the best.

“First off, (Minnesota) has to play bad to give us a chance,” Pannunzio said. “And we’ve got to take a few chances.”

By taking a few chances, Pannunzio means throwing in a few trick plays to keep Minnesota’s improving defense off balance.

“It’s like David and Goliath,” Pannunzio said. “We can’t go in there and hit them with a jab and a right hook, we’ve got to hit them with a slingshot.”

But Gophers coach Glen Mason isn’t concerned about what the Racers might throw at his squad.

“A trick play may get you a score, it may get you a series, or it may get you a first down,” Mason said. “But I don’t think it’s going to carry you through a whole ball game.”

In Murray State’s only other outing against a Division I opponent this season, the Racers lost to Ole Miss 49-14.

That said, Minnesota’s biggest concern this week was to continue working hard and staying focused on Murray State in practice, rather than looking ahead a week to Ohio State.

“You can never look past a team,” running back Tellis Redmon said. “We tried to look past Ohio last year, and they came out and beat us. It really ran our confidence down.”

With the Gophers coming off their first Big Ten win, a blow to its confidence is the last thing the team needs.

Mason said his team has practiced well this week, showing focus while continuing to work hard – meaning the team learned its lesson against Ohio last year, a game Minnesota lost 23-17.

But despite last season’s schooling, Murray State poses a few problems for Minnesota, but not because of its talent.

First, the Gophers are riding high after their victory last weekend, but have to downshift to a Division I-AA school. Second, Minnesota must remain focused on Murray State.

Still, the Gophers could use Saturday to further boost their confidence – the following two games are against the Buckeyes and Michigan.

“I feel everyone wants to put an exclamation point on this game,” tight end Ben Utecht said. “We need to go out and dominate these guys and prove to everyone else that we’re here to play.”

Baylor tickets

Tickets for the Baylor game originally scheduled for Sept. 15 will be honored for the Murray State game this Saturday.

Division I-AA will
get it done

Minnesota can use a win over Murray State towards a bowl berth. Division I-A schools are allowed one win over a Division I-AA school every three years to count toward the six wins necessary to become bowl eligible.

The Gophers 1999 win over Illinois State was not factored into the win total, as Minnesota won seven games over Division I-A teams.


Anthony Maggio covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]