2:00 PM ET, September 10, 2005
2:00 PM ET, September 10, 2005
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- After another lopsided nonconference victory, Minnesota found many reasons to be unsatisfied with a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time performance. Or, rather, for Big Ten play.
Laurence Maroney rushed 26 times for 133 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Gophers to a mistake-filled 56-24 victory over Colorado State on Saturday.
"We definitely haven't hit our peak," center Greg Eslinger said, "and I guess that's a positive thing."
Maintaining his position as a darkhorse Heisman Trophy contender, Maroney gave Minnesota (2-0) room to breathe by scoring on runs of 2 and 32 yards in the second quarter. The Gophers rushed for a whopping 355 yards in all and held the Rams (0-2) to just 59 yards on 25 carries.
They forced three turnovers, too, and turned a blocked punt into a short touchdown during a 20-point third quarter. But the passing game was mostly out of rhythm, the receivers dropped more balls and the second-string defense yielded way too many yards.
"I feel good, but I don't feel good if that makes any sense to you," coach Glen Mason said. "We have to correct those things if we're going to come close to playing to our capabilities."
Freshman Jason Giannini also missed three extra points, one of which was blocked. He made three others plus a 37-yard field goal, but another freshman, Joel Monroe, took the two extra points in the fourth quarter and reopened the competition at that position.
"That job is wide open," Mason said.
Colorado State was a little too stunned to notice what Minnesota did wrong.
"This was a good old-fashioned butt-kicking," coach Sonny Lubick said. "We knew coming in that they'd be a strong football team, and they surely proved it to us."
Justin Holland threw a 33-yard scoring pass to a wide-open Dustin Osborn that cut the Gophers' lead to 22-10 with 1:36 left before halftime, the one glaring error by Minnesota's first-team defense.
"We didn't want to go into a week off in a somber mood," said Osborn, who caught seven passes for 102 yards and three touchdowns.
The Rams, who blew an 11-point lead at rival Colorado last week in a 31-28 loss, were competitive for a while but collapsed during a painful third quarter. Holland, a fifth-year senior, limped off with a sprained right ankle after losing a fumble to Mike Sherels -- who also had an interception.
Holland -- who went 12-for-23 for 211 yards -- was walking around afterward, and he's expected to be all right. It's the team that's going to need a little rehabilitation.
"They invite you to run the ball," Holland said, "but their front seven did a nice job of stepping up and stopping us.
"We've got to come out and play cleaner ball," he said.
Freshman cornerback Dominic Jones returned a punt 53 yards for the Gophers, and strong safety Dominique Barber -- the brother of running back Marion Barber III, who is now in the NFL -- had the blocked punt. Freshman Alex Daniels scooped it up and ran 13 yards for a score to put Minnesota ahead 42-10.
The Rams, coming off a disappointing 4-7 season, have lost nine of 11 away from home. Caleb Hanie replaced Holland in the fourth quarter and threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Osborn that made it 49-17.
That score was set up by a nifty 54-yard catch and run by John Walker, who broke several tackles and kept his balance on his way to the 7. Walker had five receptions for 116 yards. Hanie threw another scoring pass to Osborn with 1:04 left, capping an 18-play, 90-yard march.
It was during that drive when Mason and defensive coordinator David Lockwood sent the starters back in, upset that the second-stringers weren't able to do better.
"He wanted us to play harder, hold the offense from scoring," strong safety Brandon Owens said. "Basically just showing the second defense what it's all about to be on the field."
A clear majority of the announced Metrodome crowd of 40,221 was gone by the time Maroney's backup, Gary Russell, scored on an 11-yard run to make it 56-17 midway through the final quarter. Russell had two scores among his seven carries and 66 yards.
Jared Ellerson caught a 54-yard touchdown pass from Bryan Cupito in the third quarter that made it 35-10. Cupito completed only nine of his 21 passes for 159 yards and two TDs, with one interception.
With 13th-ranked Purdue looming in two weeks, the Gophers must make some improvements next Saturday against Florida Atlantic.
"We were real inconsistent these first two games," Cupito said. "We've just got to try to change that next week."