Offensive explosion leads to big day from tight end

by John R. Carter

Midway through the second quarter and Minnesota up comfortably on Murray State 28-10, Gophers tight end Ben Utecht caught a pass from quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq on the right sideline.

The sophomore ran a couple of steps before confronting a Racers defender.

Instead of settling for the gain by stepping out of bounds or putting his head down, the less-than-nimble Utecht hurdled the defender for an extra few yards.

“He’s a big, good athlete and we like to get him the ball,” Minnesota coach Glen Mason said. “I liked when he caught that one near their bench. He’s about 6-foot-12, and he about jumped over that guy. I like to see that type of effort.”

Mason had to be pleased with Utecht’s entire effort on the day. The sophomore set career-highs with six receptions and 77 yards, with a 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

“I knew they were going to give me a chance,” Utecht said, noting his 33-inch vertical helped him vault the Racer. “That’s what I want to do. I want to catch passes.”

Heading into Saturday’s game, Utecht was fifth on the team in receptions with eight. Now he’s fourth.

“People say, `Why don’t you throw the ball to the tight end?'” Mason said. “We didn’t do much different today except that he was open. You can’t force it into him.”

Tapeh finally has his day

Thomas Tapeh saw his first action running the ball this season, carrying a team-high 12 times for 71 yards and a touchdown in the third quarter.

Tapeh, limited by injuries all season, saw action at fullback and on special teams in previous games.

“Tapeh has been getting healthier and healthier, and he’s playing more and more,” Mason said. “He’s a combination fullback-tailback and he carried the ball from both positions.”

Added running back Tellis Redmon, who rushed for a 108 yards and two touchdowns: “He needs to be out there more with Marion (Barber III) and I. He’s a big back – most defensive backs aren’t going to want to tackle him.”

Mason not Mr. Happy

Yes, the Gophers put 66 points on the board in a convincing win, including the team’s first defensive touchdown of the season, but Mason wasn’t happy with some aspects of Minnesota’s execution.

“I really don’t think we played well defensively,” Mason said. “And you know I’m not happy about the blocked punt. I was ready to scream. Three blocked punts in a year is unbelievable.”

Although the Gophers defense allowed just 10 points, it gave up 371 yards of offense to the Racers. Murray State’s Billy Blanchard ran for a career-high 110 yards on 22 carries, and added another 38 yards on six receptions.

The blocked punt led to a Racers field goal, which cut the Gophers lead to 7-3 halfway through the first quarter.

Pouring it on

Mason defended Minnesota’s ninth touchdown, saying he wasn’t trying to run up the score.

Just minutes into the fourth quarter and the game already over (59-10), the Gophers faced a third and 16 from their own 35-yard line.

The play called for back-up quarterback Travis Cole to hit wide receiver Antoine Burns on a deep-out. The result: a 65-yard touchdown pass.

“I don’t know what you call on third and three miles,” Mason said. “Was I looking to get another score? No. That is not my agenda. Unlike some guys, I’ve been on the other end.”

Injury update

Right guard Ryan Roth (calf) and linebacker Jimmy Henry (concussion) both missed the game with injuries.

Roth returned a week ago after missing the previous four games with their injuries. Henry suffered a concussion last week against Michigan State and was kept out of action as a precaution.

Also ailing is left tackle Jake Kuppe, who was limited against the Racers after suffering from back spasms last Tuesday.

“He should be back okay next week,” Mason said.

Injuries moved Jeremiah Carter, who has been starting at right guard for Roth, to tackle, while sophomore Joseph Quinn got his first career start at guard.