Barber, Utecht pass career 1,000-yard marks

by Aaron Blake

Minnesota running back Marion Barber III and tight end Ben Utecht each surpassed the 1,000-yard mark Saturday for their Gophers careers in rushing and receiving, respectively.

“I never knew that,” Barber said after the game of his feat. “I’m just happy that I’m out here and helping the team because I’m healthy.”

A sophomore, Barber missed almost all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. In 2001, he rushed for 742 yards with an average of 6.3 yards per carry.

He is the 34th running back in Minnesota history to rush for as many yards, joining current teammates Terry Jackson II and Thomas Tapeh in that distinction.

Utecht, in his senior season, also battled injury last year and was unable to practice most of the season. Still, he was a preseason AllBig Ten sele tion this year.

With his 45-yard catch on the final play of the first quarter, he joined 14 former Gophers in the record books.

Barber drops the ball

Barber’s 100-yard performance, four touchdowns and career rushing mark were only dampened by his inability to catch kickoffs and punts.

Barber dropped three kicks in the contest, but one of them was nullified because an Ohio player was flagged for interference after Barber called for a fair catch late in the second quarter.

“It was just a bad day,” Barber said. “It’s something I have to work on. For me, it’s just a practice thing. That’s all.”

With the Minnesota offense sputtering in the third quarter, Barber fumbled his third kick of the game and gave Ohio the ball on the Gophers’ 22-yard line. The Bobcats failed to convert a fourth-down conversion four plays later.

He dropped a kickoff late in the first quarter as well. This time, however, he picked it up quickly and legged out 48 yards to the Bobcats’ 49.

Gophers coach Glen Mason maintains he has no intention of replacing Barber on kickoff or punt returns.

Lloyd fills a void

Minnesota employed their third punter in three games Saturday when placekicker Rhys Lloyd took on the extra job.

Utecht handled punting duties in the season opener versus Tulsa. When he sat out last week against Troy State with a hip strain, freshman Mark Rivers took over.

In the middle of the week,

Mason said he didn’t know who was going to punt but added that Rivers was impressive.

Lloyd booted the ball three times for an average of 40.3 yards and a long of 47. Utecht averaged 38 yards per punt in the opener, and Rivers punted twice for an average of 42.5 yards last week.

“I just thought he did the best job,” Mason said.

Defensive notes

Freshman cornerback Trumaine Banks got his first career interception in the fourth quarter on Saturday when he snatched a Fred Ray pass in the end zone.

The Ohio passing game attempted to key on the Columbus native throughout the contest, with little success.

Sophomore Keith Lipka recorded the first Gophers blocked kick of the season in the fourth quarter when he redirected Greg DiMarino’s third extra point attempt.

Minnesota is without notorious kickblocker and wide receiver Jermaine Mays, who graduated after last season. Mays had six blocked kicks last year and earned a tryout with the Vikings because of his special teams prowess.