Only a pig and axe remain for football team

Anthony Maggio

For a coach who will be staying home this holiday season, Glen Mason was in a surprisingly chipper mood Tuesday at his weekly media luncheon.

Before answering nearly every question, Mason had something sarcastic to say, almost like he was in a relaxed state of mind.

Maybe he is, though, since he has no more pressure to make a bowl game this season.

Now his biggest challenge is keeping his team motivated, although he insists there is no problem in that area.

“The attitude of our team has been very good,” Mason said. “We’ve always had tremendous effort out of our players and I expect the same Saturday against the Hawkeyes.”

Mason has said playing Big Ten football should be motivation enough, and the two trophies are not important.

But the athletes have a different opinion.

“What I’d say right now motivates us is the pig and the axe,” running back Tellis Redmon said.

The pig, otherwise known as Floyd of Rosedale, goes to the victor of Minnesota’s clash with Iowa every season. The Gophers have won the last three meetings, keeping possession of the bronze pig since 1998.

Paul Bunyan’s Axe is the trophy either Minnesota or Wisconsin takes home every year. The Gophers haven’t brought home the axe since 1994.

Although Mason hasn’t seen the axe, Redmon thinks the trophies mean a little more to his coach than Mason will let on.

“I think he’ll be upset if we lose the pig, because Floyd’s been around here for awhile,” Redmon said. “So I think he’ll miss him, and the team will miss him too if we lose him.”

Johnson’s woes

In Minnesota’s last three Big Ten games wide receiver Ron Johnson has made exactly zero receptions in the second half. Considering Johnson holds nearly every Minnesota career receiving record, including receptions and touchdowns caught, it seems the Gophers would go to Johnson more often.

“I don’t know if we ever call a pass where we definitely throw to one guy,” Mason said. “There’s some that might have been thrown to him that were knocked down or he doesn’t catch or were overthrown, so you just look at statistics and you think no one’s going to him. Well, that’s not the case.”

Still, Johnson is the Gophers’ go-to guy and most dangerous playmaker. With Minnesota coming up on the short end lately, why haven’t the Gophers gone to Johnson and let him make plays?

After all, Johnson said defenses haven’t made second-half changes in their coverage, and he’s pulled in four passes in the first half in each of the last three Big Ten contests.

“I don’t know,” Johnson said. “Whatever happens there, that’s all coach and basically that’s it. Sometimes we don’t get what we’re looking for, but coach calls the plays and I trust him. They’re going to call the plays that they call and I can’t really say much about that.”

Redmon’s rushing record

Junior running back Tellis Redmon is closing in on his second straight 1,000-yard season for the Gophers.

Redmon has rushed for 944 yards this season with two games remaining.

“That was a goal when I came in this year and an offensive line goal too,” Redmon said. “They did a great job for me this year, and we’ve got two games left. I hope I can achieve that mark back-to-back.”

If he does, Redmon will be the first Minnesota rusher with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons since Darrell Thompson achieved the feat in 1986-87.