Special teams unit has a day to forget versus Wildcats

Dan Miller

It started with a Northwestern 97-yard kickoff touchdown return. It continued with two blocked Gophers extra points.

No Big Ten special teams honors will be awarded to Minnesota’s football team this week.

“I am very concerned about our kicking game,” Minnesota coach Glen Mason said. “(And) our kickoff coverage was terrible.”

After the Gophers took a 27-10 lead with 11:22 left in the half, kicker/punter Rhys Lloyd drove the extra-point attempt straight into the hand of Northwestern’s Colby Clark.

Seven minutes later, after the Gophers went up 33-10, Lloyd’s kick ran into the same hand.

It appeared the first miss was a holding problem, and Mason blamed the second on a “protection breakdown.”

Lloyd averaged only 35.4 yards on five punts, with one landing inside the Wildcats’ 20-yard line. He also put a kickoff out of bounds for a penalty.

“There was too many of those mistakes, and let’s face it, in a tight ball game (they) can cost you the ball game, and we have to get those things fixed,” Mason said.

Do we have replay?

There was only one play reviewed by the Big Ten’s new replay system Saturday night.

Gophers receiver Paris Hamilton appeared to catch and fumble the football – which he then recovered – at the beginning of the second quarter.

The play was reviewed for approximately four minutes, and the call was reversed after the referee said there was “indisputable evidence” that the pass was incomplete.

It didn’t matter much.

On the next play, Hamilton caught a 50-yard touchdown from quarterback Bryan Cupito.

However, there were two questionably called plays that might have mattered.

With 5:35 left in the first half, Terrance Campbell intercepted a ball thrown by Wildcats quarterback Brett Basanez. The replay, displayed only once on the Metrodome’s jumbo screens, showed the ball might have hit the ground before the interception.

But the play was not reviewed, and the Gophers took over on the Wildcats’ 12-yard line and scored.

In the third quarter, Basanez scored a rushing touchdown but looked close to not having possession of the ball as he crossed the plane of the goal line. But the play was not reviewed.

Cupito’s headaches end

Cupito, after being knocked out of Sept. 18’s game in Fort Collins, Colo., with a head injury, said he felt fine after Saturday’s game against Northwestern.

“The headaches went away by Tuesday, and I felt confident I was ready to go,” Cupito said.

Cupito made no mistakes Saturday night. He was 12-for-21 with 155 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.