10:15 PM ET, September 1, 2005
10:15 PM ET, September 1, 2005
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 Wheelwright said.
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 for Minnesota.
"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 that."
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 and executed.
"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.