9:00 PM ET, September 25, 2004
The Metrodome, MINNEAPOLIS, MN
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- No one doubted Minnesota's offense.
Against Northwestern, the Gophers finally showed they can play some defense, too.
Laurence Maroney had a 50-yard touchdown run and finished with 145 yards rushing, and freshman Justin Valentine had three short TDs to lead No. 19 Minnesota over Northwestern 43-17 Saturday night.
As usual, Minnesota's high-powered offense was clicking. But coach Glen Mason was quick to praise his defenders for holding Northwestern and quarterback Brett Basanez to one offensive touchdown.
"I was very critical of them after the last couple games and tonight, I thought they played very well," Mason said. "Seven out of 17 points don't belong to them. They didn't give up any big plays."
Minnesota's defense allowed an average of 436.7 yards per game in its first three wins and was ranked next-to-last in the Big Ten. Northwestern finished with 267 total yards.
Bryan Cupito, who completed passes to eight different receivers, threw for 155 yards and two TDs for Minnesota (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) a week after leaving in the third quarter against Colorado State with an injury.
Marion Barber III, Minnesota's leading rusher entering the game, had 22 carries for 86 yards and also threw a 21-yard TD pass to Jared Ellerson with 2:59 to play.
Maroney reached 100 yards rushing for the fifth straight game. Valentine had touchdown runs of 1 and 4 yards and also caught a 3-yard TD pass.
"It's a good start to the Big Ten season," Valentine said. "We showed we have a complete backfield."
But the offensive stars made sure to credit the defense.
"If they play like that every time, we should be good to go," Cupito said.
Basanez, who entered as the Big Ten's leading passer, went 13 of 26 for 121 yards with an interception. Northwestern's only offensive touchdown came on his 15-yard run in which he appeared to fumble before scoring. Basanez played the fourth quarter with a sprained right shoulder.
Northwestern's Jeff Backes had a 97-yard kickoff return in the first quarter for the Wildcats' only touchdown of the half.
"We were just outplayed and outcoached by a better football team," Northwestern coach Randy Walker said.
The Wildcats (1-3, 0-1) opened the scoring with Brian Huffman's 29-yard field goal. But the lead didn't last long. On Minnesota's ensuing drive, Maroney took a handoff up the middle, spun away from safety Bryan Heinz and ran up the left side for a 50-yard score.
On Minnesota's next drive, Cupito completed a 24-yard pass to tight end Matt Spaeth, who bowled over a defender and got to the Northwestern 3-yard line. On the next play, Cupito dumped a short pass to an uncovered Valentine for a touchdown.
Northwestern took back some momentum with Backes' impressive return. He took the kickoff at the 3-yard line, escaped two tackles, faked past a third defender and raced all the way to the end zone to pull the Wildcats to 14-10.
But the Gophers scored on their first two possessions of the second quarter to open a 27-10 lead.
Valentine scored his second touchdown on a 4-yard run at the 13:42 mark.
Cupito then found Paris Hamilton for a 50-yard TD pass that put Minnesota up 27-10. Valentine's third touchdown, a 1-yard run with 3:52 left in the first half, put the Gophers ahead 33-10.
On the Wildcats' opening drive of the second half, Basanez led Northwestern to Minnesota's 15-yard line. On second down, Basanez dropped back before running. He appeared to fumble the ball out of bounds before reaching the end zone, but the officials called it a touchdown and didn't review the replay.
"If I was on top of my game, I would've called a timeout," Mason said.
Basanez, who came in averaging 311 yards passing per game, was slow to get up and sat out Northwestern's next two series.
Rhys Lloyd, who had two extra-point attempts blocked, added a 46-yard field goal for Minnesota in the third quarter.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||3-13||12-19|
|4th Down Conversions||0-1||1-1|
|FG||11:20||BRIAN HUFFMAN 29 YD FG|
Drive info: 8 plays, 44 yards.
|TD||8:15||LAURENCE MARONEY 50 YD RUN (RHYS LLOYD KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||3:51||JUSTIN VALENTINE 3 YD PASS FROM BRYAN CUPITO (RHYS LLOYD KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 48 yards.
|TD||3:38||JEFF BACKES 97 YD KICK RETURN (BRIAN HUFFMAN KICK)||10||14|
|TD||13:42||JUSTIN VALENTINE 4 YD RUN (RHYS LLOYD KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 70 yards.
|TD||11:22||PARIS HAMILTON 50 YD PASS FROM BRYAN CUPITO (BLOCKED XP)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 63 yards.
|TD||3:52||JUSTIN VALENTINE 1 YD RUN (BLOCKED XP)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 12 yards.
|TD||12:00||BRETT BASANEZ 15 YD RUN (BRIAN HUFFMAN KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 65 yards.
|FG||5:37||RHYS LLOYD 46 YD FG|
Drive info: 6 plays, 41 yards.
|TD||2:59||JARED ELLERSON 21 YD PASS FROM MARION BARBER III (RHYS LLOYD KICK)|
Drive info: 19 plays, 87 yards.