Football finds some

by Murali Balaji

While the Gophers’ 20-19 loss to Indiana might have been one of the team’s toughest to swallow, there were certainly some bright spots.
The play of quarterback Billy Cockerham: Cockerham put together his most consistent and solid effort of the season, eclipsing the Hoosiers’ Antwaan Randle El in total offense (217 to 182 yards). Of Cockerham’s two interceptions, one rolled off the hands of tight end Zach Vevea and into the arms of cornerback Curtis Randle El.
“On one hand, Billy had one of his strongest completion performances of the season,” quarterbacks coach Steve Axman said. “On the other hand, he had two interceptions.”
“But Billy’s his toughest critic, though. I think he’s taken a lot from this game.”
Running back Thomas Hamner: Maybe it was the idea of playing in front of friends and family, who were in town from Hamilton, Ohio, but Hamner ran hard and attacked the Hoosiers defense despite the poor field conditions at Memorial Stadium. Hamner also scored his first touchdown since a Sept. 19 game against Memphis, and the Gophers’ first rushing touchdown in the Big Ten this season.
Wide receiver Ron Johnson: Johnson continued his emergence as a viable pass receiving threat, catching a career-high two touchdowns.
“They just kept double-teaming Luke, so I knew the balls would be coming to me,” Johnson said.

Missing in Action
Freshman Delvin Jones started the game at free safety in place of Keith Dimmy. So where was the 6-foot-1, 170-pound senior?
“He’s really sick,” coach Glen Mason said. “He’s got a 103-degree fever.”
Enough said. However, wide receiver Antoine Henderson, who returned the opening kickoff 83 yards, didn’t step back onto the field and was replaced by Arland Bruce on special teams.
“Tony had a sore hamstring,” Mason said after Monday’s practice.
With his two touchdown catches, Johnson broke the freshman mark set by Ryan Thelwell in 1994. But Johnson didn’t seem too overwhelmed about the accomplishment.
“I wasn’t really thinking too much about it,” he said. “Luke was double covered on almost every play, so he kept telling me to expect it more.” With 37 receptions on the season, Johnson already surpassed Thelwell’s freshman reception record of 24, and needs only 19 yards to break the yardage mark.
Home team pride?
Gophers fans have been maligned by the local media for not showing enough support for the team when they play at the Metrodome.
But the fans in Bloomington, Ind., might not be much better. Despite all the national hype over Antwaan Randle El, only an announced crowd of 30,049 showed up for the Hoosiers’ final home game of the season.

Bad Trip
Mason said Indiana coach Cam Cameron personally apologized prior to the game for the poor field conditions at Memorial Stadium.
“He said, `I’m sorry about this grass you’re playing on,'” Mason said. “I told him that they were playing on it, too.”
“It’s a lousy field, but that’s no excuse for our football team,” he added.

Williams, Hagman honored
Seniors Parc Williams and Jason Hagman were honored by GTE for their academic performance.
Williams, a kinesiology major, has a cumulative 3.32 grade point average, while Hagman has a 3.60 gpa in mechanical engineering.