Khaliq and his Gophers out to prove themselves
MINNEAPOLIS -- Asad Abdul-Khaliq's name is listed among the passing records at Minnesota, and the fifth-year senior is known around the nation for his strong arm and quick feet.
But since he took over the full-time duties at quarterback last year, Abdul-Khaliq still hasn't proven he can consistently win big games for the Golden Gophers -- and he knows it.
He also knows Friday night's game against No. 20 Michigan, the biggest game the Gophers (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) have played in years, gives him a chance to win over his critics and legitimize his team's No. 17 ranking.
"It's definitely a chance for me to redeem myself," he said Tuesday.
Against the Big Ten last season, Abdul-Khaliq fared well in passing yards, but he threw more interceptions (10) than he did touchdowns (8) and caught much of the flak -- fair or unfair -- for Minnesota's late collapse against conference opponents.
He's had mixed results again this year; He went 6-for-14 for a mere 56 yards against Penn State but responded with four TD passes and 331 passing yards last Saturday at Northwestern.
He didn't throw an interception in either Big Ten game.
"I can't have any turnovers or any lost yardage plays, especially against a defense like Michigan's," he said.
So far, Abdul-Khaliq's best performance in a big game was in Minnesota's win over Arkansas in the Music City Bowl last season. He threw for 222 yards and one touchdown.
The Gophers were the first team in the nation to become bowl eligible when they beat the Wildcats on Saturday. Since the bulk of their schedule has been soft, Abdul-Khaliq and the Gophers know a win over the Wolverines (4-2, 1-1) would convert many skeptics and boost their bowl stock.
It will also be the seniors' final chance to beat Michigan, which has won 14 straight over Minnesota.
"This is what you live for," Abdul-Khaliq said.
From the moment they walk into their practice facility, Abdul-Khaliq and the Gophers are reminded of the greatness that once was.
The long, glass case they walk past on their way to the locker room is filled with trophies, pictures of former stars and the retired numbers of Bronko Nagurski and Bruce Smith -- the school's only Heisman Trophy winner.
When they walk onto the practice field, the players see a board that lists national and Big Ten championships. Minnesota's last national title came in 1960. The last Big Ten title, 1967.
"That gets to me," said tight end Ben Utecht, one of Khaliq's favorite targets. "That really puts a huge dent in where I want things to go."
Abdul-Khaliq wants future players to remember the 2003 team. Beating Michigan would show that this year's Gophers -- not to mention the talented quarterback himself -- are the real deal.
"We've all worked so hard to get to this point," he said.
Andres Ybarra can be reached at aybarra(at)ap.org
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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