TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- When Marion Barber III left early for the
NFL draft, it left Laurence Maroney as Minnesota's featured
tailback back. It didn't take long for him to show he was ready to
take on the extra load.
Maroney's first carry of the season went 63 yards for a
touchdown and put the Golden Gophers on their way to a 41-10
victory Thursday night against Tulsa.
"We knew he was ready, but we didn't know the first play of the
game he'd do something like that," Minnesota receiver Ernie
Maroney, who Minnesota (1-0) has touted as a dark horse Heisman
Trophy candidate, added another long touchdown run and finished
with a career-high 203 yards. After Maroney led the Big Ten in
yards per carry last season, quarterback Bryan Cupito said he
wasn't surprised to see Maroney break off some big plays.
"It's kind of what we've grown to expect," Cupito said.
Maroney started the Gophers' third drive with another long
touchdown run. He took off around right end, stopped safety Bobby
Klinck with a hesitation move and zoomed across toward the left
sideline as he crossed the goal-line for a 73-yard score to make it
17-0 for Minnesota late in the first quarter.
"There was one man to beat and two receivers, so I just cut
back across the field," Maroney said. "It was just me and open
field, so I knew I was going to score then."
By that time, Maroney had 159 yards on only eight carries and
Minnesota coach Glen Mason was smiling broadly and striding up and
down the sidelines. Tulsa coach Steve Kragthorpe, his hands at his
waist, was glaring mad.
Once Maroney was finally done with his lengthy jaunts, Cupito
added a 1-yard touchdown pass to Wheelwright just before halftime
to make it 23-3. He finished with 235 yards on 14-for-25 passing
"I thought I'd have to tell him to stop running so I could
throw some passes," Cupito said.
Maroney was making his college debut when the Gophers walloped
Tulsa 49-10 in the 2003 season opener in Minnesota. After learning
that Tulsa's base defense includes only three linemen and three
linebackers, Maroney was confident that he'd be able to run against
the Golden Hurricane (0-1).
Tulsa opened the game with four defensive linemen, but Maroney
was still able to score on his first carry. He surpassed his
previous best rushing total by the end of the first half, but had
only 15 yards on five carries after halftime.
"They played a nice defense," Maroney said despite the long
runs. "They had a good scheme going on where it was almost
stopping some of our big play runs. ... We got back to pounding
back and forth, and we didn't get too many more big plays after
Jason Giannini, who kicked a 28-yard field goal in the first
quarter, made a 23-yarder in the third quarter and Gary Russell
added touchdown runs of 2 and 25 yards for Minnesota.
Backup quarterback David Johnson threw for 172 yards on
20-for-30 passing with one touchdown -- a 4-yard pass that Ryan Bugg
caught after it had been deflected by Jones -- in relief of injured
Tulsa starter Paul Smith.
"I wasn't nervous or anything," said Johnson, a redshirt
freshman. "I knew the game plan pretty well, so I just went out
"You always have to be ready because you don't know what's
going to happen."
Smith was sandwiched by two Minnesota defenders and appeared
woozy as he walked off the field with help from trainers after a
third-down scramble in the second quarter. He sat on the bench for
a few minutes with the trainers before standing on the sidelines
the rest of the game without his helmet.
He was 7-for-11 for 46 yards.