Cole given nod to start on Saturday

John R. Carter

For a split second at Tuesday’s football media luncheon, the room full of normally loud-mouth sports reporters went silent.

Since the season began, Minnesota coach Glen Mason has kept a tight lid on who would start at quarterback for his team each week.

Day after day, media members continued to ask: sophomore Asad Abdul-Khaliq or senior Travis Cole? Sometimes Mason admitted he didn’t know. Other times he said he knew, but wouldn’t share.

When casually asked who will be called upon to start Saturday’s contest with Purdue, Mason surprisingly gave a quick, yet short, answer.

“Yeah, I do, Travis Cole,” Mason said. “Now you know too. How’s that?”

After the stunned reporters regained their state of mind, the next question was: Why Cole?

“Why not?,” Mason said. “I think he gives us the best chance to win.”

Now that wasn’t so hard, was it coach? After two games, and over a month of speculation, the Gophers have a definite starter – at least for one game.

Cole, who started against Louisiana-Lafayette almost three weeks ago, will get the call over Abdul-Khaliq, who started the season opener at Toledo.

“It’s nice, to at least have a good idea of what I have to prepare for,” Cole said. “It’s an opportunity to try to keep that job and just stay focused and lead the team to the best of my ability.”

Although Cole gets the nod, Mason said Abdul-Khaliq will see plenty of action against Purdue. The amount, of course, will depend on how Cole performs.

Neither have played outstanding this season. In two games Cole has thrown for 237 yards on 22 of 42 passing, while Abdul-Khaliq has completed 14 of 20 attempts for 150 yards. The pair have just one touchdown pass between them.

Mason’s decision to start Cole might not hinge on this year’s performances, but rather on the results from a year ago.

Looking back to last season’s game against the Boilermakers, it was Abdul-Khaliq who started. But after a shaky effort, Mason relieved Abdul-Khaliq with Cole, who showed more poise.

Purdue coach Joe Tiller isn’t surprised his team will see Cole first on Saturday.

“I thought we would see Cole again,” Tiller said. “Just based on how well he played against us last year.”

Cole finished the game 17 of 27 for 180 yards and two touchdowns in the Gophers 38-24 loss.

While Mason answered the quarterback question for fans and media, Minnesota wide receiver Ron Johnson said he’s indifferent to which quarterback starts.

“It doesn’t matter to me who starts – they’re both good,” Johnson said. “We’re confident with either quarterback. They are basically the same quarterback.”

Abdul-Khaliq is not really surprised or upset about being second on the depth chart to start Saturday’s game. He said a decision had to be made, and it could have gone either way.

“I’m not going to lay down and cry about it, I just have to be prepared to go in and play,” Abdul-Khaliq said. “I’m going to go with coach Mason’s decision.

“I am confident that if I’m called on I can go in there and do the job.”


John R. Carter welcomes comments at [email protected] and Anthony Maggio welcomes comments at
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