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NCAA record could fall at Indiana

Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber III are inching toward 1,000 yards apiece, again.

A week after a rejuvenating 45-0 win over Illinois, Minnesota’s football team finds itself back in its comfort zone: beating up on teams it should and setting impressive offensive records along the way.

In fact, Saturday’s 1 p.m. game in Bloomington, Ind., against Indiana gives the No. 24 Gophers (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) a chance to set an unprecedented mark in college football.

Junior Marion Barber III needs 180 yards and sophomore Laurence Maroney needs 59 yards for the duo to become the only rushing pair in history to each pass the 1,000-yard mark in consecutive seasons.

“We started thinking about it (Tuesday),” Maroney said. “So we said, ‘Hey, we might as well just go for it.’ “

Maroney would need a comparatively awful day rushing not to fulfill his end. But Barber would need to have close to his career-best game (201 yards on Sept. 18 against Colorado State).

It’s no secret that the two running backs and the Gophers are eyeing the historic record, but Gophers coach Glen Mason said he won’t do anything special to make it happen.

“I want to get them to do it, but I’m not going to do it at the expense of the team,” Mason said. “Heck yeah, there’s a chance. Everybody we play here on out has a good football team though.”

Indiana (2-5, 0-4 Big Ten) coach Gerry DiNardo and the Hoosiers would like to think Mason’s comment applies to them as well.

But DiNardo said he knows exactly what to expect from the Gophers offense and how effective Minnesota’s running game can be.

“The (Minnesota) offensive line is one of the best in the conference, perhaps in the country,” DiNardo said. “The two running backs that they have are two of the better running backs in the league. They are very well coached, and it’s a very well-conceived scheme.”

To combat Maroney and Barber, and keep their names unassociated with the record – for this week – the Hoosiers will undoubtedly try to accomplish the effective Michigan/Michigan-State strategy of keeping the Gophers running backs off the field or out of the playbook.

Fighting offense with offense has twice subdued the Gophers, and the Hoosiers might be capable of doing it.

Indiana senior receiver Courtney Roby is setting some records of his own. He now holds Indiana records for receiving with 2,382 yards and receptions with 154. This season, Roby has five touchdowns and 39 catches for 671 yards (95.9 yards per game).

“(Roby) has given us we what really need offensively, and that is explosiveness,” DiNardo said.

An Indianapolis native, Roby was selected to play in the Senior Bowl and is averaging 17.2 yards per catch this year.

He will be the focus of the Gophers’ defense, which is coming off a much-improved outing last week, shutting out Illinois.

“Even last year, they had a great receiving corps,” Minnesota safety John Pawielski said. “They’re not always the receivers that people talk about in the Big Ten, but they have some great receivers.”

And the Gophers have some pretty good runners.

Standing on the doorstep of a historic achievement, Barber and the Gophers know that if they don’t set the mark Saturday, it’s only a matter of time.

“Something like that would be really special,” Barber said. “But I don’t want to think about it, and we don’t really talk about it. We just go with the flow.”

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