Hamner runs for 3 TDs in win

Jim Schortemeyer

On a night when the Gophers complete just five passes, it’s safe to assume one of two things. Either Minnesota was plowed by a top-ranked football team, or a running back had a big night.
Fortunately for the Gophers, the latter was true in their 35-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe. Senior Thomas Hamner spent Saturday night speeding through holes that would have sprung William “The Fridge” Perry into the secondary.
Hamner finished his day with 33 rushes for a career-high 174 yards and three touchdowns.
“I’ve never done that before,” Hamner said. “It was cool. That’s what I work for. I worked hard this offseason, so I was prepared for it.”
In the first quarter, the only quarter that the Minnesota offense looked viable, Hamner put up Ron Dayne-like numbers. Hamner had 14 rushes for 103 yards to give the Gophers a 7-0 lead.
For the better part of the first half, the Minnesota line had its way with the undersized defense of the Indians. Louisiana-Monroe’s defensive line gave away an average of 30 pounds each to the Gophers front five. Credit to the big men for Hamner’s big night was not lost on Gophers coach Glen Mason.
“He didn’t do that without some awful good blocking up front,” Mason said. “It’s not a one-man show. But he did a good job. He ran hard and took care of the football.”
If running backs like Terrell Davis buy their offensive line big-screen TVs, the least Hamner could do is buy his beefy blockers a decent meal.
But as good as the line was on run plays, it was almost equally as bad on pass blocking. The Gophers line struggled to deal with Louisiana-Monroe’s four- and five-man rushes on passing downs. Cockerham had several passes bounce off the hands of pressing defenders, and several more were overthrown to clear the rushing linemen.
Sure there were missed assignments, but even more trying for Mason was the inexcusable penalties by his offensive line. The Gophers tallied a pair of holding penalties, as well as several other offensive miscues, which left Mason less than thrilled with the performance of his group.
“You have to avoid beating yourself to win,” Mason said. “We’re making too many silly mistakes. We gotta work on that.”
The other thing Minnesota needs to work on is completing a pass. While Mason deflected criticism from Cockerham, the Gophers quarterback had a dismal performance. Cockerham finished the night at 4 of 15 for 36 yards before he was replaced by Andy Persby.
Cockerham was picked off twice, both times by the Indians’ Pat Dennis who said Louisiana-Monroe was well prepared for an air attack.
“It’s not about pickin’ him,” Dennis. “We watched some film and he’s a very good quarterback. But I picked up on a little thing with his release.”
Is there a quarterback controversy brewing? Most likely not. Persby spent most of his time handing off to his backs, finishing 1 of 2 passing for 5 yards.
While the Gophers’ passers were able to get away with such lackluster play Saturday, Mason knows there’s a lot of work to be done with his signal callers.
And just one cream puff remains before Big Ten season starts.

Jim Schortemeyer welcomes comments at [email protected]