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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
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."