Gophers watching Spartans Rogers

Brian Hall

David Lockwood had to see the play one more time.

Minnesota’s secondary coach, Lockwood sat in his office Tuesday afternoon preparing for the Gophers’ upcoming opponent, Michigan State, by watching the Spartans game against Notre Dame earlier this season.

To be more specific, Lockwood was watching Michigan State wide receiver Charles Rogers.

With Notre Dame holding a four-point fourth quarter advantage, the Spartans drove downfield for a game-winning score. The key man on the drive was none other than Rogers.

The receiver totaled three catches and 73 yards on the drive to boost his game total of 175 yards on seven catches and two touchdowns.

But one play stands out on the drive and, in Lockwood’s mind, defines Rogers.

On fourth-and-11, Spartans quarterback Jeff Smoker fired the ball 30 yards to the back of the end zone. Rogers out-jumped two Irish defenders, caught the ball and somehow managed to fall with one foot inbounds for the game-leading touchdown.

“That was unbelievable,” Lockwood said. “All of his abilities are explained right there, all in one catch. To make that catch around two guys and not only to make the catch, but to come down and get a foot inbounds is unbelievable.

“It was a heck of a catch. I haven’t seen one like it.”

Lockwood and Minnesota get a chance to see Rogers live when they visit East Lansing on Saturday.

Rogers, a junior, has established himself as one of college football’s ultimate offensive weapons. He is 6-foot-4, 205 pounds with good hands and leaping ability.

“I think what separates me is being able to make the big play,” Rogers said. “I am able to get separation on the defender. I am just going out there and playing with a lot of heart.”

Meanwhile, Rogers has also played himself into consideration for the Heisman Trophy and No. 1 NFL draft pick status.

Rogers set an NCAA record with a touchdown catch in 13-straight games, breaking a mark previously held by the likes of Marshall’s Randy Moss, Pacific’s Aaron Turner and Michigan’s Desmond Howard.

Iowa snapped his streak of end zone appearances last week.

“I am still not sure how we did it,” Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It was a cumulative effort. Our defensive guys had a good plan, our players played at a high level and I think we were probably fortunate.”

Despite being slowed by Iowa, Rogers is on his way to possibly winning the postseason Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. He was honored as the conference’s preseason choice.

The receiver has compiled 37 catches, 765 yards and seven touchdowns this season. His average of 127.5 receiving yards per game is first in the Big Ten, while his 6.17 catches per game ranks him second. He is also third in the conference in total touchdowns.

“He’s got size, good speed, good hands, all of the attributes it takes to be a good receiver,” Lockwood said. “I haven’t seen many people just go out there on Saturdays and do what he does.

“He is going to be playing on Sundays. That’s the bottom line.”

Rogers has not made any decisions to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft.

“Right now, we are just trying to get some wins here in East Lansing,” Rogers said. “That is the biggest thing right now.”

While Rogers is not looking to the NFL yet, some opposing players believe he should have made the jump already.

“He should have gone to the NFL straight out of junior high,” Minnesota safety Justin Isom said.

One Gopher who knows Rogers’ ability really well is running back Terry Jackson II. Jackson and Rogers were high school teammates in Saginaw, Mich.

Rogers was the heavier recruited of the two athletes and elected to stay near home and attend Michigan State, while Jackson made the decision to play for Minnesota.

Now the two will be on the same field again this weekend, only this time on different sidelines.

“This is supposed to be the game of the week back home,” Jackson said. “I am really looking forward to it. Hopefully Charles and I both play well and we can give them a good show.”

When Rogers is concerned, it’s normally a good show. Even Rogers himself went back and watched the replay of his fourth quarter touchdown against the Irish.

“Sometimes I just sit back and say to myself, ‘That was a good catch,’ ” Rogers said. “The more catches I make like that the better off the team will be.

“So, I just try to put my team in position where we can win games.”

Co-captain update

gophers football coach Glan Mason said Wednesday that quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq will start Saturday against the Spartans while fellow captain Mike Lehan will once again not be in uniform.

Mason said Lehan should be healed by the Nov. 2 game at Ohio State.

Brian Hall covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]