Gophers change practice schedule for short week

by Brian Hall

While most University students were waking up and getting ready for another long day of hitting the books, Minnesota’s football team was hitting each other early Monday morning.

Monday is normally a slow day at the Gibson-Nagurski football complex, a day in which the players are given off each week. But this week is different, thanks to the Gophers’ short week and Thursday’s matchup with Illinois.

“We have serious class conflicts,” Mason said. “It forces us to work at six in the morning with the players. They will be getting out of bed at 4:30 to practice.”

Because of scheduling conflicts at the Metrodome, Minnesota’s next two football games against the Illini and Northwestern have moved from Saturdays to Thursdays.

The changes cause the Gophers, who are fighting to return to the postseason, to make way for the Minnesota Twins to return to theirs.

The Gophers’ contest with Illinois was originally scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 5 but the teams were forced to reschedule because of possible Twins home playoff games on Friday and Saturday against the Oakland Athletics.

Minnesota’s homecoming game next week against the Wildcats has also been changed to a Thursday contest in case the Twins advance to round two.

The Gophers (4-1, 0-1 Big Ten) and Illinois are each looking to rebound from disappointing losses last weekend.

The Illini (1-4, 0-1) lost to Michigan 45-28 on Saturday while Minnesota was defeated at Purdue 28-15. Now, each faces the short week to prepare for their next challenge.

“You would like to speed your schedule up but you can’t,” Mason said. “The kids are tired and they’re sore. We’re not prepared to go out and practice for Illinois.”

Mason had the team study game footage Sunday and then scheduled Monday’s practice for 6 a.m. to accommodate the class conflicts. Meanwhile, the Gophers have only one regular practice scheduled.

“Tuesday will be the only normal day of practice we will have,” Mason said. “Wednesday is the day before game and you have to cut way back.”

While cutting back might affect the technical aspects of the Minnesota’s preparation, the team could use the rest.

The Gophers were battered and bruised following the Purdue game. Starting linebacker Justin Fraley left the field on crutches wearing a protective boot. Quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq was limping and had a scratch on his right eye.

Mason said Fraley is doubtful for Thursday but Abdul-Khaliq will be available.

“We need to get rested and off our feet,” safety Eli Ward said. “We will be ready.”