After Ohio State beating, Indiana regroups against Minnesota

Updated: October 31, 2003, 3:45 PM ET

MINNEAPOLIS -- It doesn't take much to figure out the Minnesota Gophers' offensive strategy.

Run!

For the last nine games, opposing coaches have tried to prepare for the Gophers by telling their defensive players to stop the run. But it's made little difference.

The 24th-ranked Gophers (7-2, 3-2 Big Ten) enter Saturday's game against struggling Indiana with the third-best rushing offense among NCAA Division I teams. Only Navy and Air Force have a better yards-per-game average than Minnesota's 285.7.

"We're running pretty darn good and I hope we can continue to do things this well," coach Glen Mason said.

If Indiana's performance last weekend against Ohio State is any indication, the Gophers shouldn't have too much trouble. The Hoosiers (1-7, 0-4), who have lost 10 straight Big Ten games, were routed 35-6 by the Buckeyes behind Lydell Ross' career-high 167 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

The Gophers' running backs committee is led by Marion Barber III, who has 888 yards rushing and a school-record 15 touchdowns, a mark shared by Oklahoma State's Tatum Bell for most rushing TDs in the country.

Behind Barber, there's bruising fullback Thomas Tapeh and freshman sensation Laurence Maroney, who ran for a career-high 179 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Illinois last weekend.

And they still have a 1,300-yard rusher from last season -- Terry Jackson II -- waiting on the sidelines.

Despite the overload of talent, Barber said there are no concerns about people not getting enough carries.

"As long as the ball is moving and the offensive line has been playing as great as they have, we don't think about that," Barber said. "There's no selfishness."

In fact, Maroney says, the competition in the backfield has been a big key to Minnesota's success this season.

"I just feed off Marion and Thomas," Maroney said. "When they do something big that's how I get myself going."

So far, only one Minnesota opponent, Michigan State, has had success stopping the Gophers' vaunted rushing attack. The Spartans held them to 148 yards on the ground. Other than that, the Gophers have stayed in the hunt for one of the Big Ten's top four bowl games largely because of their ground game.

"We're getting some pretty big plays," Mason said. "And like anything else once you start getting it, you get more and more."

Throw in the Big Ten's pass-efficiency leader, quarterback Asad Adbul-Khaliq, and things don't look too favorable for Indiana, which has lost five straight games.

"Their offense is one of the best conceived attacks I've seen in a long time," Hoosiers coach Gerry DiNardo said.

Allowing an average of 170 yards rushing per game, the Hoosiers aren't the worst in the Big Ten when it comes to defending the run -- three other teams give up more yards per contest.

But the Hoosiers are one of three teams (Minnesota included) that have allowed a league-high nine rushing touchdowns in conference play.

The Gophers have gained 1,401 yards on the ground in five Big Ten games for an average of 280.2 yards per game -- that's almost 100 yards more per game than Wisconsin, the second-best rushing team. Minnesota has 12 rushing TDs against Big Ten teams.

After two disappointing losses to Michigan and Michigan State, the Gophers are trying to win out their remaining games against the Hoosiers, Wisconsin and Iowa. It's the last chance they have to prove they're deserving of a top-tier bowl.

Mason cautioned his team not to take Indiana lightly, despite the Hoosier's paltry performance last week against the Buckeyes.

Indiana had 131 yards -- 80 yards came in the fourth quarter when the outcome had already been determined -- its lowest total since October 2000. The Hoosiers ran for minus-12 yards.

DiNardo said he wants his team to concentrate on finishing the season strong and building momentum for next year. If they continue to work hard, "it will be a successful last third of the season."

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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