Gopher back wins award

David La

Minnesota running back Thomas Hamner was recognized Monday as the Big Ten’s co-offensive player of the week, on the strength of his performance Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe. Hamner finished with a personal best 174 yards on 33 carries and three touchdowns. The Gophers triumphed 35-0, with Hamner scoring all three offensive touchdowns.
Saturday’s game marked the second time in his career that Hamner ran wild through the Indians’ defense. His previous top rushing performance of 158 yards came in 1996 — when Hamner was a freshman — and the school Minnesota played was known as Northeast Louisiana (now Louisiana-Monroe).
Hamner shared the honors with wide receiver Nick Davis of Wisconsin, who tallied 227 all-purpose yards against Ball State. The Badgers were victorious, 50-10.

Decapitation and appreciation
The Gophers defense registered seven sacks Saturday, numerous big hits, an interception, and a fumble recovery against Louisiana-Monroe.
In blasting Indians’ quarterbacks Andy Chance and Ben Beach down after down, the men of the Minnesota defense claim they were just trying to be courteous to one other.
“That’s what were trying to do, get as much pressure on the quarterback as possible,” defensive end Karon Riley said. “We got our corners out there on man coverage a lot of times, and we just want to help them out a little bit.”
That help was reciprocated by the defensive backs, whose play helped limit the opposition to a 36 percent pass completion rate for the game.
“Every time they’d get a sack (the defensive line) came back and said, ‘thanks,’ and every time I break up a pass on a rushed throw I’d go back and tell them thanks,” cornerback Willie Middlebrooks said. “They kind of go hand-in-hand.”
Rushing to join the sack frat
The Gophers pass rush, which set a school record with 41 sacks in 1997, has 10 in the first two games of this season. Karon “K-Boogie” Riley leads the team with four, and was happy to see two of his fellow defenders, tackle John Schlecht, and linebacker Ben Mezera, pick up a pair of sacks each.
“I’m glad everybody else is getting into the sack race,” Riley said. “It helps the whole team out. That’s what we’re here to do; get sacks.”

The punt(er) killers
The special teams have two blocked punts to their credit, resulting in a safety vs. Ohio, and a touchdown by freshman Tellis Redmon on Saturday.
Redmon also made his impression on the Indians punter John White in a more blunt, personal fashion during the game. Teammate Delvin Jones calls the group the “Punt Killers”, and Redmon made sure he gave the nickname conviction.
“My assignment was to block the punter,” Redmon said. “And I just kept on blocking him. He got mad at me because I was doing my job.
“The first time, I hit him and he didn’t go down on the ground,” Redmon said. “I said, ‘I can’t let this happen again.’ So the second time I hit him, he went down on the ground, and I kept my hands out so coach would know I wasn’t trying to fight him or anything.”

The Point After
The Gophers first two opponents this year have been as hapless as advertised, but Minnesota’s confidence is running neck and neck with it’s margins of victory.
“We have a long way to come,” Middlebrooks said. “But if we had to play Big Ten football next week, I can say that we’re ready for ’em.

David La Vaque covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]