Minnesota continues struggles on offense

by Mark Remme

Senior quarterback Bryan Cupito and the rest of the Minnesota offense did little to help their chances of beating No. 1 Ohio State on Saturday.

While looking uncomfortable in the pocket and making rushed decisions to deliver the ball, Cupito might have played his worst game as a Gophers starter despite his success against the Buckeyes last year.

Cupito torched Ohio State’s defense last season, passing for 396 yards and one touchdown in a 45-31 loss at the Metrodome.

This year, facing a similarly devastating defense, the results were much different.

Cupito threw three interceptions in the game – a feat he hadn’t done since the Gophers’ 42-35 homecoming victory over Purdue last year.

Overall, Cupito threw just nine interceptions last year but has already thrown seven this season.

Running game misery

Cupito’s passing game isn’t the only part of Minnesota’s dismal offense that has been unproductive.

The Gophers’ running game has been mediocre at best during their last four conference games and against North Dakota State, a stretch in which it has not produced a single 100-yard rusher.

Junior Amir Pinnix, the team’s leading rusher, touched the ball 14 times against Ohio State but collected just 47 yards.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said holding Minnesota’s running game in check was a pivotal part of their game plan.

“Anytime you hold Minnesota, (a team) who knows how to run the ball, to 47 yards, that’s huge,” Tressel said.

Daniels back on defense

Sophomore Alex Daniels, who the Gophers converted from linebacker to running back at the beginning of this season, found himself playing defensive end against the Buckeyes.

Daniels, who rushed for 155 yards in his first game as a running back against Kent State, has seen limited action in the last five weeks.

With the defense stricken with injuries and a season where rebuilding is essential for future success, coach Glen Mason elected to move Daniels again.

Mason said the move also reflected a need for more dominant play on the defensive line.

“They say if you don’t control the line of scrimmage, you don’t have much of a chance,” he said. “It’s an old cliché, but it’s true.”

Smothering fourth down

Ohio State’s defense showed no mercy for a hapless Minnesota offense.

The Gophers struggled to gain 182 yards in their 44-0 loss Saturday, and were unable to find a game plan that allowed them to move down the field in large chunks.

The Buckeyes were relentless in pursuing the ball, making Minnesota earn every inch.

In fourth-and-one situations, Ohio State twice stuffed the Gophers’ attempts to keep possession.

After senior quarterback Troy Smith fumbled and Minnesota recovered on the Buckeyes’ 38-yard line, Minnesota faced a situation that might have given the Gophers momentum despite being down 10-0.

But Pinnix was stopped by a slew of Ohio State defenders.

“That’s just a prime example of handling adversity,” Buckeyes senior defensive tackle David Patterson said. “On that fourth-and-one, we just got a little penetration and we caused them to bounce a little bit – our linebackers came and filled the holes up.”