Passing game explodes against Hoosiers

by Tyler Rushmeyer

Missing in action for nearly a month, Minnesota rediscovered its offensive firepower in convincing fashion on Saturday.

And when it was all said and done, the Gophers had 63 points on the board, the most in a Big Ten contest for Minnesota since a 67-0 victory over Iowa in 1916.

The offensive onslaught was led by senior quarterback Bryan Cupito, who found seven different receivers in the contest and finished with 378 yards passing and four touchdowns in just over two quarters of work.

Minnesota receivers found themselves wide open throughout the game and Cupito had no problem recognizing it.

“We came out throwing today and made great play calls at the right time,” he said. “Sometimes I was looking for the safety and I couldn’t even find him.”

The passing game had been miserable during Minnesota’s last three efforts and coach Glen Mason said Saturday’s game was just an example of a team finally executing.

“It’s the execution. The ball was on the mark and the guy caught it,” he said. “This game is not that difficult.”

But it appeared difficult for many Minnesota players during the rough three-game stretch.

The offensive outburst may have been highlighted by junior receiver Ernest Wheelwright’s performance. Wheelwright, who had just 175 receiving yards coming into the contest, easily had his best game of the season, finishing with three receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns, while fellow wide receiver, senior Logan Payne, finished with six receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns.

Wheelwright and Payne’s efforts represent the first time Minnesota has had a pair of 100 yard-plus receivers in a contest since Jared Ellerson and Aaron Hosack did so against Iowa in 2003.

After Cupito’s performance on Saturday, he now sits at second in Gophers history for career passing yards, passing Asad Abdul-Khaliq (2000-03).

As a team, Minnesota gained 500 yards of total offense for the first time since last year’s matchup with the Hoosiers.

Perhaps most impressive is the offensive output of 63 points, which equaled all the Gophers scoring in the last five contests combined.

Receivers in books

With senior tight end Matt Spaeth’s three receptions on Saturday, he became the ninth Minnesota player in school history to reach 100 catches.

Spaeth has 1,198 career receiving yards and needs just 14 more to pass Ben Utecht (2000-03) for the most receiving yards by a Gophers tight end.

Quote of the Game

“Coach Mason, his staff, his players – out-coached us, out-played us in every tangible way and every intangible (way).”
– Indiana head coach Terry Hoeppner

Wheelwright moved to ninth all time in receiving yardage at Minnesota while Spaeth remained at 15th and Logan Payne moved to 18th.

Homecoming streak

With Saturday’s victory, Minnesota has now won its last six homecoming contests.

It was the 87th homecoming game for the Gophers. The first was played against Wisconsin in 1914.

Minnesota now sits at 53-31-3 all time in homecoming games.

Key players back

Junior linebacker John Shevlin returned to action on Saturday after sitting out the past two contests due to a leg injury.

Defining Moment

Minnesota’s first drive of the game.
-On the first play from scrimmage, Cupito hit senior wide receiver Logan Payne for a 58-yard gain, which set up an 18-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker three plays later. It was the first of nine touchdowns for Minnesota on the day.

“It was very difficult,” he said. “I’m a team guy and the team was going through tough times and that made it even more difficult.”

Senior tight end Matt Spaeth, who had three receptions for 30 yards, also returned to action after missing last week’s contest with a shoulder injury.