Backup Russell tops century mark

by David McCoy

Few of the announced 40,709 who watched Minnesota’s football team take a 40-0 halftime lead over Florida Atlantic Saturday at the Metrodome were still around to see backup Gophers running back Gary Russell shine.

The sophomore broke four tackles on his way to a 30-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter that padded Minnesota’s lead at 46-0.

Russell has been seeing his fair share of carries over the first three games because the Gophers have rested starter Laurence Maroney after amassing big leads.

Russell has taken advantage of those opportunities, scoring as many touchdowns as Maroney – six, and averaging a whopping 10.4 yards per carry.

“Through three games, his yards-per-carry (average) is phenomenal,” coach Glen Mason said. “When Marion Barber said he was leaving for the draft, I said if there is one position to lose a player, it was a running back. With Gary, what you see is what you get.”

Russell finished Saturday’s game with 116 yards rushing on just 11 carries and scored two touchdowns. It was the first 100-yard game of his career.

Giannini still struggling

Gopher’s kicker Jason Giannini struggled again Saturday, missing two extra points. One went wide right and one hit the left upright.

He also booted a kickoff out of bounds. Giannini has now missed five extra points this season, but has made all five of his field goal attempts, making two short kicks of 22 and 27 yards Saturday.

Davis gets two sacks

True freshman Steven Davis made his third start of the season at defensive end and recorded two sacks in the fourth quarter.

Davis also recorded four solo tackles.

Injury update

Gopher’s defensive tackle Mark Losli returned to the lineup Saturday after missing last week’s 56-24 win against Colorado State.

Losli experienced back spasms after reaching over to pick something up in his apartment last week, Mason said.

Linebacker John Shevlin started Saturday’s game, but limped off the field after only a couple of plays.

Shevlin had injured his knee after Mason reinserted the first-team defense when he was disappointed in the play of his backup defense last week against Colorado State. His status is uncertain, but Mason said Shevlin will “be OK.”

Left tackle Joe Ainslie missed his second straight game Saturday night and did not dress after receiving surgery on his right hand last week.

Starting fullback Justin Valentine did not play Saturday after an undisclosed injury suffered during the week.

Russell played fullback in Valentine’s place during the first half.