Gophers forget Wolverines, focus on Spartans

Updated: October 14, 2003, 7:14 PM ET

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Gophers say they're done moping over last Friday's tough loss to Michigan.

With No. 15 Michigan State on its way to the Metrodome, they have no other choice.

"There's nothing we can do about Friday," quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq said Tuesday, four days after his team blew a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter to lose its most important game in years.

"It's over and done with. We just have to be prepared for the next five games."

The players are through grieving, but there's still a little soreness left from the 38-35 loss. The Gophers (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) dropped from No. 17 to No. 25 in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll.

"Saturday, Sunday, it was pretty quiet," defensive tackle Darrell Reid said.

"Slowly but surely, we're getting our emotions back, joking around a little bit with each other. It's getting back to normal a little around here."

Beating the Spartans (6-1, 3-0) would do a lot to ease the hangover. After the Spartans, Minnesota plays Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa.

The Gophers take solace knowing the conference race is still wide open. Michigan State and Wisconsin are both 3-0 while Purdue is 2-0. Four other teams have only one loss.

Like the rest of those teams, the Gophers' goal now is to win the rest of the games on their schedule.

"Right after the (Michigan) game, you're kinda thinking like, 'This ruins everything," cornerback Justin Isom said. "But then you see how the rest of the Big Ten played out and then it didn't look too bad after Saturday, either. So we're still confident. We'll definitely put the loss behind us."

Coach Glen Mason reiterated Tuesday that he was proud of his guys for playing as hard as they did against the Wolverines. Marion Barber III ran for a career-high 197 yards on 21 carries and the defense played well through the first three quarters before John Navarre engineered Michigan's record-breaking comeback in the fourth.

"I don't know who said it, but someone was very correct, when they said 'It ain't over 'till it's over," Mason said.

Said Reid: "We played bad one quarter. We had one letdown for one quarter. Overall we feel like we played a good game besides that one quarter."

Giving themselves pep talks and reminding themselves that the Big Ten race is just heating up will be almost as important this week as getting ready for Jeff Smoker and the high-powered Spartans offense.

"I think we all understand the goal is to win the Big Ten championship, and we can still do that," guard Joe Quinn said. "We're all pretty sad about the game, but it just takes time."

Not too much time, they hope.

Mason said his players would've been emotionally spent even if the Gophers had beaten the Wolverines. Regardless of the outcome, Mason said he knew he'd have to help pick the players up this week.

"That's a challenge every week. You would've asked the same question if we would've won the game," he said.

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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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