12:00 PM ET, November 5, 2005
Memorial Stadium, BLOOMINGTON, IN
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) -- When Laurence Maroney's nagging right ankle sapped Minnesota of its best player early, the nation's top running team opted for Plan B -- Gary Russell.
Russell, Maroney's backup, ran 28 times for 188 yards and three touchdowns and even threw a 2-point conversion pass Saturday as the Golden Gophers overpowered Indiana 42-21.
"Everybody knows Laurence is a premier back so for me to step up, I think I did a pretty good job," Russell said.
Nobody in the Minnesota locker room was complaining about Russell's effort. It marked the third time this season that the sophomore outrushed Maroney on the road, and exhibited what makes Minnesota dangerous.
It was a win that the Golden Gophers (6-3, 3-3) needed. Minnesota snapped a two-game losing streak, won for the first time at Indiana since 1985 and became bowl eligible.
And they did it, of course, with their usually devastating one-two combination.
Russell gashed the Hoosiers (4-5, 1-5), who played without starting middle linebacker John Pannozzo because of a hand injury, for huge chunks of yardage. And when he wasn't running away from the Hoosiers, his counterpart was running over them.
Maroney, who spent most of the first quarter and the start of the second quarter on the sideline, getting his ankle taped and retaped, finished with 15 carries for 85 yards and one touchdown -- modest stats for the junior who entered the game as the nation's No. 3 rusher.
But Russell more than made up for Maroney's temporary absence.
While Maroney moved into second place on the Gophers' career rushing list, passing Thomas Hamner, Russell was busy increasing his touchdown total to 15. Only one Minnesota player, Marion Barber III (17), has had more in a single season.
"It's not a secret that we like to run the football at Minnesota, that's why they call us Gophers," coach Glen Mason said. "If we were Eagles, we'd throw the ball more. All of a sudden we got it going in the third quarter."
For the Hoosiers' beleaguered defense, it was an all-too-familiar script.
They failed to pressure Minnesota quarterback Bryan Cupito much, couldn't wrap up Maroney and Russell, who routinely broke tackles, and seemed to be on the field for almost all of the third quarter when Minnesota turned the game with four touchdown drives.
Offensively, things weren't much better. Blake Powers completed 26-of-43 for 253 yards with one interception, and Chris Taylor carried 19 times for 75 yards and two touchdowns. Powers also scored on a 1-yard run.
The plight forced Indiana coach Terry Hoeppner to explain a second-half meltdown in what may have been Indiana's pivotal game of the season.
The Hoosiers have now lost four straight and must win at No. 22 Michigan, where they haven't won since 1967, and at home against Purdue, which they've beaten only once since 1996, to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1994.
"They stopped our first drive, got good field position and made personnel adjustments," Hoeppner said, referring to the start of the third quarter. "We did not adjust to it very well."
Minnesota appeared out of sync early. It missed a 34-yard field goal on the game's opening possession, and saw a 7-0 lead disappear when the Hoosiers scored two touchdowns in the final six minutes of the half.
The Gophers even blew a scoring chance at the end of the half when Cupito bounced a pass to Russell from the Hoosiers' 2 as time expired.
The second half was a different story.
"We had a little talk in the locker room that everyone had to be ready to play to win the game," Russell said.
Russell took the lead.
He rushed for 56 yards on the Gophers' first three offensive plays, setting up Maroney's 6-yard TD run that made it 14-13 after Jason Giannini missed the extra point wide right.
On Minnesota's next series, Russell scored on a 1-yard run to give Minnesota a 21-14 lead.
Then, the Gophers took control.
Cupito, who was 16-of-26 for 225 yards, threw a 17-yard TD pass to Matt Spaeth, and Russell's 6-yard scoring run made it 34-14 with 1:46 left in the third quarter. Russell finished the scoring a 1-yard and his conversion pass to Spaeth midway with 5:36 left in the game.
"I really wasn't surprised by Gary's performance," Mason said. "He's a darn good running back, we've been aware of that ever since that 61-yard run at Michigan, and they complement each other well."
The Fan Pick
95.2% of College Pick'em players picked Minnesota to win the game.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||7-12||12-20|
|4th Down Conversions||0-1||0-1|
|TD||4:41||JUSTIN VALENTINE 1 YD RUN (JASON GIANNINI KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||5:56||CHRIS TAYLOR 5 YD RUN (JOE KLEINSMITH KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 56 yards.
|TD||1:41||BLAKE POWERS 1 YD RUN (JOE KLEINSMITH KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 66 yards.
|TD||12:00||LAURENCE MARONEY 6 YD RUN (MISSED KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 65 yards.
|TD||8:50||GARY RUSSELL 1 YD RUN (LOGAN PAYNE 2PT PASS FROM BRYAN CUPITO)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 31 yards.
|TD||5:26||MATT SPAETH 17 YD PASS FROM BRYAN CUPITO (JASON GIANNINI KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 51 yards.
|TD||1:46||GARY RUSSELL 6 YD RUN (MISSED KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 54 yards.
|TD||9:21||CHRIS TAYLOR 2 YD RUN (JOE KLEINSMITH KICK)|
Drive info: 15 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||5:36||GARY RUSSELL 1 YD RUN (MATT SPAETH 2PT PASS FROM GARY RUSSELL)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 33 yards.