Mason can’t deter players’ Ohio State excitement

Brian Stensaas

In his 17-year coaching career, Minnesota football coach and Ohio State graduate Glen Mason has a less than impressive 1-4 record against the Buckeyes. The one win? A 29-17 upset at the Horseshoe in 2000.

The Buckeyes (9-0, 4-0 Big Ten) were the fifth-ranked team in the nation then, and enter this weekend’s home game against the 23rd ranked Gophers as the nation’s fourth-ranked team.

Mason said he feels a little different about playing his alma mater but that every game is just as important as the next to him. But for some of his players, Saturday’s showdown is already generating some butterflies.

“It’s exciting for everybody,” quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq said. “It’s a pivotal game for us. It’s going to be tough to put up the points we have been; all the hype can be a distraction. But we’re focused for the game.”

Abdul-Khaliq and the Gophers’ offense have averaged more than 440 yards of offense through eight games and go up against an Ohio State defense ranked second in the nation, allowing 327 yards per game.

“It’s Ohio State; no matter what the rankings say, it’s always going to be a big game,” offensive tackle Jeremiah Carter said. “They’re definitely the best defensive line we’ve gone up against, better than Purdue. But we can’t play like we did (against the Boilermakers) and expect to win.”

Minnesota (7-1, 3-1) allowed 21 third quarter points in a 28-15 loss at Purdue on Sept. 28, its only defeat of the season.

Big House knocked down

iowa handed Michigan its worst home loss in 35 years on Saturday with a 34-9 shellacking in front of more than 111,000 homecoming fans.

The Wolverines, once the pride of the Big Ten offensively with the likes of Tyrone Wheatley and Desmond Howard, have fallen off the cliff as of late. Michigan is third to last in scoring offense in the Big Ten (25.3 points per game) and does not have a player among the top 10 in all-purpose yardage.

“We haven’t created the type of balance you need to be able to be successful,” Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr said. “I’m most disappointed in our inability to run the football. In most cases, that’s what enables you to have some success in throwing the football.”

Smoked out

mystery still looms around the conference regarding Michigan State quarterback Jeff Smoker’s status.

The senior signal caller was suspended indefinitely last Thursday, two days before the Spartans’ home game against Wisconsin. The Badgers whipped Michigan State 42-24.

Coach Bobby Williams declined to give any information on the suspension Tuesday, only saying that, “when (Smoker) fulfills the terms of his suspension, he will return.” Smoker is still enrolled in classes and has been in contact with the team, Williams said.

Smoker is the Spartans’ third leading passer in school history and passed for a school record 21 touchdowns last season.

Radio reports in Michigan alleged more players would be suspended this week, but Williams said Tuesday the rumors were false.

Williams’ woes

smoker’s suspension is only one in a long line of woes for Williams this season.

Michigan State was picked by the media to be third heading into the season. The Spartans are currently 1-3 in the conference. The poor showing has prompted many fans in the East Lansing area to be livid, some starting a Web site calling for the firing of Williams.

The site,, has more than 115,000 hits and includes an online petition, anti-Williams merchandise and a dismal fact sheet.

Williams has talked with upper University officials in the past weeks, but he would not disclose the content of the discussions.

Brian Stensaas covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]