Gophers prepare for heat with pickle juice

Minnesota quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq walked into the trainer’s room following practice Monday and was given a cup of juice.
Abdul-Khaliq stared down into the cup and noticed the juice had a unique green color to it. Then he took a quick sip.
“I thought it was a new flavor of Gatorade,” Abdul-Khaliq said.
It wasn’t.
As he cringed like a two-year-old licking a lemon, Abdul-Khaliq asked what the unfamiliar tasting concoction was. The trainer responded: pickle juice.
The Gophers are heading down to Waco, Texas, this weekend for a daytime showdown with Baylor, where temperatures are expected to reach 100 degrees. So coach Glen Mason wants to make sure his team doesn’t suffer from cramps under the Texas sun.
His remedy — which he heard worked from Gophers junior wide receiver Jack Brewer, a Texas native — is pickle juice.
At first Abdul-Khaliq and his teammates thought it was a joke. Not anymore. They’ve been taking it three or four times a day all week.
“It’s all right once it goes down,” Abdul-Khaliq said. “But the first sip was just bitter.
“I’ve been drinking it for two days, but it seems like six months.”
After the Gophers’ disappointing loss to Ohio last Saturday — a loss Mason called one of the two worst in his 15-year head coaching career — Minnesota has a pair of opponents waiting for them in Texas.
One is the Bears, the other is the heat. With Baylor finishing last in the Big Ten last season with an 0-8 record (1-10 overall), the more challenging of the two appears to be the heat.
Gophers defensive end Karon Riley, who played at SMU in Dallas before transferring to Minnesota, recalled playing September games with the heat in the triple-digits.
“We would schedule afternoon games when we played BYU or Wyoming,” Riley said. “We would get those guys who weren’t used to it to play in the sun, and we would use it to our advantage.”
The Gophers are now the victims of the scheduling dilemma, but Riley said he feels the team will be prepared.
“We’re playing in the same heat they are,” Riley said. “It’s not like they have the shade and we don’t.”
Mason only wishes he could return the favor next season when Baylor travels to the Metrodome to play the Gophers.
“We need to move that game to the Friday after Thanksgiving and play it outside some place,” Mason said.
Ready for a bigger role
Mason said Gophers running back Thomas Tapeh is in stage two of a three-stage process making him Minnesota’s starting running back.
The first was the ‘ease-him-in’ stage Tapeh went through in the Ohio game. Mason called Tapeh’s number on just four carries — the redshirt freshman turned in a total of 30 yards.
Now Tapeh, whom Mason said might start against Baylor depending practice performances, is ready for the next step.
“We’re at the stage where we’re going to use common sense, but also push him aggressively,” Mason said. “The last stage is just play him; let him carry the ball as much as he can.”
Hall likely sidelined
Senior linebacker Justin Hall, who missed all but five games last year because of a foot injury, will likely miss the Baylor game due to another injury, Mason said.
Hall is suffering from a hyperextended elbow, which he suffered in the loss to Ohio.
“He’s improving,” Mason said. “But I don’t anticipate him to be available for this game.”
MAC attack
First, Toledo upset Penn State in Happy Valley two weekends ago.
Then Ohio defeated the Gophers while Western Michigan disposed of the Hawkeyes in Iowa last Saturday.
So what’s next for the Mid-America Conference?
The upstart MAC is an impressive 3-6 against the Big Ten — a conference many call the best in the country — this season, with one final contest.
Miami (OH) heads to Columbus on Saturday to take on the Buckeyes. Ohio State coach John Cooper has been warning his players this week about overlooking the MAC team.
“We’re aware of what’s happening,” Cooper said. “We may lose this football game, but it won’t be because of lack of preparation or lack of effort from our football team.”

John R. Carter covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]