The Gophers won their game in dominating fashion Saturday against Colorado State, 56-24.
The defense looked shaky in the fourth quarter, and it appeared at times as though the unsure hands of last season’s team were going to plague this year’s passing game as well.
But the running game worked as it always does against nonconference opponents, posting 355 yards rushing in a game about which afterwards coach Glen Mason said, “I don’t think we ran the ball very well.”
Running on all cylinders
Laurence Maroney had another solid performance, notching 135 yards on 26 carries with two touchdowns. But the best guy in the backfield on Saturday was his backup Gary Russell.
Russell gained 66 yards while taking two of his just seven carries into the end zone. Russell now has 133 yards and four touchdowns through two games on just 13 carries.
Amir Pinnix had a solid showing as well, gaining 69 yards on 14 carries.
Quarterback Bryan Cupito hooked up with Jared Ellerson on a 54-yard bomb down the middle – made possible by a great play fake.
After 40-plus rushing attempts, it gets rather easy to make the defense bite on a play-action. But that’s what the Gophers’ passing game needs to build some confidence going into Big Ten play in two weeks.
Meisel filling in
Sophomore Todd Meisel made his first career start in place of injured Mark Losli.
Meisel recorded just two tackles but made the first sack of his career and just the second sack of the Gophers’ season.
Missing out on extras
Kicker Jason Giannini came through on his only field goal attempt, a 37-yarder, but had one extra point blocked and and missed two others outright.
The fourth quarter saw Joel Monroe knock home the extra point for the Gophers for two scores in the quarter, but it had nothing to do with the misses by Giannini.
“It was probably a combination of both things today, but even if Giannini would have made all his kicks I still would have put Monroe in,” Mason said. “No one holds a job on this football team. That race is wide open.”
‘Special’ special teams
The Gophers blocked a punt for the first time since 2002 and returned it for a touchdown.
The play came in the middle of the third quarter after the Gophers already had a firm grip on the game, but it could be a sign for special teams that their hard work has paid off.
“I was going to try and block the kick, so I didn’t even see the ball until I looked down,” Alex Daniels said about the blocked punt and his 13-yard return for a touchdown. “When I saw the ball I just picked it up and I was so excited. I’m thankful that everyone was doing their job so we could get a block. We always practice that and I guess the proof is in the pudding. Special teams is my way of getting on the field.”