3:30 PM ET, September 11, 2004
The Metrodome, MINNEAPOLIS, MN
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Standards are high at Minnesota this season, and that's why a 16-point home victory over a Division I-AA opponent was thoroughly unacceptable.
After an impressive season-opening victory, the Gophers took a big step backward.
Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney each surpassed 100 yards rushing for the fifth time in 15 games together, and Minnesota (No. 24 ESPN/USAToday; No. 22 AP) beat Illinois State 37-21 on Saturday.
"I didn't like any phase of our football team today," a red-faced coach Glen Mason said as he pounded his fist on the table. "Period! End of story!"
Barber rushed 18 times for 149 yards and two touchdowns, and Maroney ran 18 times for 141 yards and a score for the Gophers (2-0). Minnesota needed a pair of 80-yard TDs, in a 2:08 span midway through the third quarter, to break the game open.
"We didn't play the way we should have," Maroney said. "We underestimated this team."
Mason, though, bristled when asked if he sensed a letdown coming.
"They outplayed us," he said. "That's no letdown."
Yance Vaughan was 33-for-57 for 372 yards, two interceptions and two touchdowns passing -- plus one rushing score for the Redbirds (1-1). Demetrus Johnson -- a transfer from Minnesota -- ran 14 times for 104 yards, and Laurent Robinson had nine receptions for 80 yards.
They were too busy lamenting several missed scoring chances to be pleased with such a strong performance against a top-25 team.
"I don't believe in moral victories," coach Denver Johnson said. "We didn't come up here to have a good showing or to earn respect. We came up here fully intending to win."
Still, Illinois State had to put this in perspective. It was the first game in school history against a ranked Division I-A team.
"We made some errors that cost us, but the biggest thing is we showed we have heart," Johnson said.
After a stellar first college start, Bryan Cupito wasn't nearly as sharp -- completing 10 of 22 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns for the Gophers. Jared Ellerson caught six balls for 62 yards and a score.
Minnesota gained 303 yards on the ground, but the two long third-quarter touchdowns masked what was an otherwise uneven offensive performance.
The defense was more disappointing. The secondary accounted for five of the Gophers' 12 penalties -- four pass interference and one personal foul. The Redbirds totaled 480 yards and made 26 first downs.
"If you want to be a great team, you better learn how to handle success," Minnesota defensive coordinator Greg Hudson said.
The biggest difference between Division I-A and I-AA is often speed, and Maroney gave the spunky Redbirds a spirit-breaking reminder of that midway through the third quarter.
The sophomore took a handoff, bounced left and beat James Temple to the corner -- where he raced untouched for 80 yards to put Minnesota ahead 30-14.
Illinois State went three-and-out, the Gophers took over at their 20 and drove the dagger in deeper. Cupito rolled right and hit freshman Ernie Wheelwright -- who was streaking past Evan Allen-Gessesse on a post pattern and didn't break stride on his way to the end zone.
The Redbirds wouldn't quit, though. Justin Valentine was stuffed at the goal line and stripped by Temple, who returned the fumble 33 yards to set up a 14-play drive that culminated in a 1-yard scoring plunge by Vaughan to cut the lead to 37-21.
Next week, Minnesota will have a much tougher test -- at Colorado State.
"When you're playing teams that aren't Big Ten teams, you have to dominate them," defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery said.
Vaughan threw touchdown passes to Ramon Barber and Jason Horton before halftime, and Illinois State moved into a 14-all tie with 1:09 left.
Barber's 10-yard touchdown run, begun with a nifty spin move at the line to deke Justin Martindale, gave the Gophers a 20-14 lead with 19 seconds remaining. Rhys Lloyd's extra point was blocked.
The Redbirds could easily have been in front, though. Trumaine Banks, beaten later on Horton's touchdown catch, intercepted a pass in the end zone in the first quarter. Stephen Carroll pulled a 43-yard field goal wide right early in the second, and there were several dropped passes.
"We didn't prepare ourselves to come out and play," Banks said. "We all feel that we took a step backward."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||6-19||2-10|
|4th Down Conversions||2-3||0-0|
|TD||12:43||RAMON BARBER 38 YD PASS FROM YANCE VAUGHAN (STEPHEN CARROLL KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 44 yards.
|TD||6:27||JARED ELLERSON 2 YD PASS FROM BRYAN CUPITO (RHYS LLOYD KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 72 yards.
|TD||8:25||MARION BARBER III 5 YD RUN (RHYS LLOYD KICK)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 74 yards.
|TD||1:09||JASON HORTON 22 YD PASS FROM YANCE VAUGHAN (STEPHEN CARROLL KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 54 yards.
|TD||0:19||MARION BARBER III 10 YD RUN (BLOCKED XP)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 57 yards.
|FG||10:07||RHYS LLOYD 39 YD FG|
Drive info: 7 plays, 31 yards.
|TD||6:04||LAURENCE MARONEY 80 YD RUN (RHYS LLOYD KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 94 yards.
|TD||3:56||ERNEST WHEELWRIGHT 80 YD PASS FROM BRYAN CUPITO (RHYS LLOYD KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||9:17||YANCE VAUGHAN 1 YD RUN (STEPHEN CARROLL KICK)|
Drive info: 14 plays, 66 yards.