Without Ellerson, others step up

David McCoy

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Minnesota wide receiver Jared Ellerson came off the field Oct. 29 against Ohio State having played a career game – five catches for 113 yards and a touchdown.

Just a few days later in practice, Ellerson came off the field with an injured toe, unable to run, after another Gophers player stepped on his foot while Ellerson was running a route.

“If he can’t run, he can’t play wide receiver,” Gophers coach Glen Mason said.

But tight end Matt Spaeth and wide receiver Jakari Wallace came up big for Minnesota against Indiana, and the Gophers passing game didn’t miss a beat in the team’s 42-21 win Saturday over the Hoosiers.

“When Jared went out I told myself that I needed to come in and do more as a receiver for the team,” Wallace said. “The receivers came together and said, OK, we’re going to be without one of our soldiers, so we got to just take over for him.”

Spaeth and Wallace did just that. Spaeth led Minnesota with four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown and Wallace was right behind him with three catches for 52 yards.

Wallace added another 14 yards on two “bubble screen” catches – a wrinkle the Gophers used many times for consistent yardage.

Wide receiver Logan Payne and running back Laurence Maroney also caught the quick throws from the slot. Payne’s 11-yard screen play on third and 11 gave Minnesota a crucial first down which led to its go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter – a one-yard touchdown run by Gary Russell that put Minnesota on top 21-14.

“Previously in the week, we watched film and (the Hoosiers) like to have their linebackers cheat on the inside to stop the run,” Wallace said. “So we figured that would work. We can outflank them and get a gain of at least 7 or 8 yards every time.”

The first time Minnesota gained a first down was when Maroney lined up in the slot and took the quick pass for eight yards and a first down.

And on the next play, quarterback Bryan Cupito hit Spaeth with a 30-yard catch down to Indiana’s 39-yard line.

Spaeth’s effectiveness would continue from there. He scored a touchdown on a play action pass that left him wide open on the right side to give Minnesota a 28-14 lead.

On Minnesota’s next touchdown, Spaeth made a great catch to convert the two-point conversion.

“Every week defenses are going to give you certain things and you just have to game-plan for what they give you,” Spaeth said. “And this week they gave us the tight end, so it was there.”

Wallace made some big catches as well. Aside from his elusive runs on the screen plays, Wallace’s catches of 16 yards and 29 yards both set up touchdowns.

It made Ellerson’s absence a whole lot more bearable.

“It was going on throughout practice,” Wallace said. “So we knew what we had ahead of us.”