Minnesota to have leading rusher back vs. Iowa

Updated: November 15, 2005, 5:25 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota running back Laurence Maroney said his right ankle is still not 100 percent, but it won't keep him from playing in Saturday's regular season finale at Iowa.

Maroney missed last week's victory over Michigan State after injuring the ankle in a win over Indiana the week before.

"It's guaranteed I'm going to play Saturday," Maroney said on Tuesday. "You don't have to worry about that."

The Gophers didn't miss a beat without their leading rusher. Third string sophomore Amir Pinnix rushed for a career-high 206 yards and a touchdown in the 41-18 rout.

Maroney tested the ankle in warmups and said he had no problem running straight ahead, "I just couldn't move lateral."

Wanting to make sure his star would be ready for the season ender at Iowa, coach Glen Mason said he erred on the side of caution and rested Maroney last week.

"That's the hardest thing to do is sit on the bench and watch a game," Maroney said.

Maroney, who entered last week as the Big Ten's leading rusher with 1,345 yards, watched teammates Gary Russell and Pinnix tear up the Spartans defense, running through gaping holes. The Gophers (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten) rushed for 327 yards on the day to overwhelm reeling Michigan State.

Russell left in the second quarter after a blow to the head left him woozy. Mason said Tuesday he expected Russell to be ready for Iowa as well.

That means Pinnix, who earned Big Ten player of the week honors to make the Gophers the first team in conference history to have three backs earn the award in the same season, could be headed back to the bench.

Despite earning praise from Mason for his attitude and ability, Pinnix had just two carries in the previous five games while stuck behind Russell and Maroney.

"It's not like Little League baseball where everybody gets a chance to bat," Mason said. "It's not a popularity contest. I think it teaches them a life lesson that the best guy will play."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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