Mason will try his luck with Cole

Sarah Mitchell

On Sunday, Travis Cole’s roommate called him at his girlfriend’s house with breaking news.
Cole, a transfer from Foothill Junior College in San Francisco, was named the Gophers starting quarterback for Saturday’s game against Illinois by coach Glen Mason.
“He heard it on the T.V. or something,” Cole said.
“I was a little excited for the week to start.”
Redshirt freshman Asad Abdul-Khaliq was on the other end of the decision. Abdul-Khaliq was Minnesota’s starter for the first four games.
But Abdul-Khaliq never settled into the Minnesota system. In the team’s 38-24 defeat at Purdue last Saturday, the freshman was benched near the end of the second quarter when Mason decided the offense needed a change.
With Abdul-Khaliq at the helm, th Gophers earned just one first down against the Boilermakers.
“That’s football. If you don’t produce, what else is there to do?,” Abdul-Khaliq said. “I have to take it like a man.”
Minnesota moved the ball more effectively with Cole calling the signals. By the end of his first Big Ten game, Cole had completed 17 of 27 pass attempts for 180 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
From Mason’s viewpoint, Cole putting points on the board distinguished the two first-year Gophers from each other.
“The only thing that separates him and Asad right now is that in a little more than a half of a football game he executed the offense better than Asad did,” Mason said.
And as practice resumed Monday, it was Cole receiving the majority of the repititions.
While there is a different body in the pocket, Minnesota won’t revamp its offensive scheme.
“It’s not going to change because Travis is playing,” Gophers co-offensive coordinator Tony Petersen said. “It’s not like going to him is dropping the mental capacity of our quarterback.”
They hope the results will change, however.
Petersen also said both quarterbacks bring similar skills to the game. They both have strong arms and move well in the pocket.
And both are young and inexperienced.
“The object of the quarterback is to move the ball down the field and put it in the end zone,” Petersen said. “If one guy’s not doing a good enough job, you’ve got to let the other one get a chance.”
For Cole, the chance to start a Big Ten game is an opportunity and the position seems to be his to lose. Mason said he will not consider splitting time at the position because he’s “just trying to get one of them to play good right now.”
Abdul-Khaliq’s season is not over. He’ll be waiting for a phone call of his own.
“Anytime something like this happens all types of questions come up and what if’s and maybe if he had,” Abdul-Khaliq said. “It all boils down to that I didn’t produce.”
“Now that I’m on the bench I can’t just sit back and act like it’s over.”

Sarah Mitchell covers football and welcomes comments [email protected]