High altitude to add to ‘hostile environment’ against Colorado State

Ben Goessling

When Minnesota’s football team travels to Colorado State on Saturday, it will enter what defensive tackle Mark Losli called “the most hostile environment we’ve played in in a long time.”

For at least a few Gophers, part of that hostility will be caused by Fort Collins’ altitude. The city is 4,984 feet above sea level, and while coach Glen Mason downplayed the issue, cornerback Ukee Dozier and defensive end Darrell Reid are at least thinking about it.

Running backs Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney were stretching on the sidelines and defensive end Mario Reese spent much of the fourth quarter riding an exercise bike in Saturday’s 37-21 win over Illinois State.

That was in Minneapolis, which is at less than 1,000 feet.

Dozier said Saturday that several Gophers struggle with cramps, which could become an issue in the thin air.

“I’ve never played in anything like that before,” he said. “I’m not really sure what to expect.”

Added Reid, “With the air up there, it’s going to be hard to breathe. And Colorado State will be ready to go.”

In his weekly press conference, Mason squelched the issue, saying he never looks at weather conditions as an excuse.

“I’ve never been to Fort Collins, but I was in Boulder many times while I was at Kansas,” Mason said. “And we had some of our best games up there.”

Mason says he’s sorry

Mason offered an apology of sorts for his table-pounding rant after last Saturday’s win, saying his wife Kate scolded him for being short with the media – and with her – after Minnesota’s sloppy 37-21 win.

“Boy, did I get reprimanded after I got home,” he said. “I’m still not out of the doghouse.

Then he added: “And I was not hitting the table. There was a fly there.”

Top teams hit the road

The Gophers won’t be the only ones facing a tough road game this weekend. Including Minnesota, five of the six Big Ten teams ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 poll play on the road.

The one team that doesn’t, No. 18 Purdue, is taking a week off.

No. 16 Iowa and 20th-ranked Wisconsin head to the desert, with the Hawkeyes traveling to Arizona State and the Badgers visiting Arizona.

Seventeenth-ranked Michigan visits San Diego State, and No. 9 Ohio State heads east to take on North Carolina State.

Davis out once again

Wisconsin will again play without starting halfback Anthony Davis, who injured his eye in the team’s 34-6 win over Central Florida a week and a half ago.

His absence leaves the majority of the carries to freshman Jamil Walker.

Formerly a high school track star, Walker carried 16 times for 88 yards in the Badgers’ 18-3 win over Nevada-Las Vegas last Saturday.

Coach Barry Alvarez said Walker can expect to see even more work this weekend.

“We tried to spoon-feed him last week, not running him between the tackles and those kind of things,” Alvarez said. “We’re going to increase his load every week.”

Extra points

– Illinois coach Ron Turner said he still isn’t sure about the availability of starting quarterback Jon Buetjer for Saturday’s game against Western Michigan. Buetjer bruised his sternum last weekend in a loss to UCLA, and he met with the team’s medical staff Monday.

– Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said he’s expecting at least 10,000 Hawkeyes fans for the team’s game at Arizona State.