Minnesota 44

(1-0, 1-0 away)

Kent State 0

(0-1, 0-1 home)

7:30 PM ET, August 31, 2006

Dix Stadium, Kent, OH

1 2 3 4 T
MINN 14 3 21 644
KENT 0 0 0 00

Top Performers

Passing: B. Cupito (MINN) - 146 YDS, 1 TD

Rushing: A. Daniels (CIN) - 24 CAR, 155 YDS, 3 TD

Receiving: N. Pruden (KENT) - 5 REC, 118 YDS

Ex-LB Daniels scores 3 TDs as Gophers roll at Kent State

KENT, Ohio (AP) -- Minnesota is looking to a converted linebacker to fill a role recently held by the likes of Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber.

So far, so good.

Alex Daniels rushed for 155 yards and three touchdowns to lead Minnesota over Kent State 44-0 Thursday night in Glen Mason's return to the school where he got his head coaching start.

"Let's face it, he's 265 pounds," Mason said. "It becomes awful tough to keep tackling him. You might get him down, but you're paying a price to get him down."

Daniels, a highly touted linebacker whom Mason switched to running back following several losses at the position, opened the third quarter by carrying all seven times on a 56-yard touchdown drive.

"I was a little winded, but I looked at it as a challenge that I could get this done and I did," Daniels said.

The sophomore enjoyed wide-open running lanes and punished Kent State's defenders with his large frame. He scored on runs of 1, 3 and 6 yards.

"Anybody in this room could run behind that line and pick up yardage," he said.

Daniels acknowledged having butterflies on the first play, his first on offense since high school.

"The first touchdown, that got rid of the jitters and the bugs," he said. "This just was a whole lot of fun. Coming in, I thought I was the third-string guy."

After Daniels left, Amir Pinnix scored on a 15-yard run and Justin Valentine went in on a 2-yard run. Pinnix finished with 114 yards.

Mason will continue rotating Daniels with Pinnix, the team's leading returning rusher, and true freshman E.J. Jones, who twisted his ankle and carried the ball just three times. Mason said the injury was not serious.

Mason has had to scramble to fill his backfield after Gary Russell, who broke the school record with 18 rushing touchdowns last season, left because of academics. Brylee Callender, a junior college recruit, was suspended earlier this month and transferred to Nevada.

The Golden Gophers (1-0) forced six turnovers, intercepting Jamal Harris twice, to dominate Kent State in what amounted to a tune up for their Sept. 9 game at No. 9 California.

"Anytime you open the season on the road and you score a lot of points and you pitch a shutout on defense, how can you not be happy?" Mason said.

Minnesota's defense twice allowed Kent State (0-1) to reach the 1 in the first half, but the Golden Flashes wasted both opportunities.

Julian Edelman hit Najah Pruden on a 64-yard pass, but as Pruden fought to break a tackle, linebacker Mario Reese forced a fumble and recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback.

The Golden Flashes, 1-10 last season, got to the 1 again behind strong running by Eugene Jarvis, but failed to get in on three attempts. Reid Macko missed a 20-yard field goal.

"We stopped ourselves," Kent State coach Doug Martin said. "The score really should have been 17-10 at halftime -- easily. We moved the ball, the only thing I'm really disappointed in is the turnovers."

Jarvis ran for 109 yards and Pruden had five catches for 118 yards.

Edelman was 7-of-13 for 150 yards and three interceptions.

Minnesota's Bryan Cupito was 8-of-13 for 146 yards and a 39-yard touchdown to Eric Decker.

Jason Giannini, who missed eight extra point attempts last season, kicked a 22-yard field goal and was 5-of-6 on PATs.

Mason was 12-10 in two seasons at Kent State (1986-87) and is the last Golden Flashes coach with consecutive winning records in the Mid-American Conference.

"I've got a lot of great memories from the two years I was here," Mason said. "A lot of the players who were on the team in '86 and '87 are back tonight. I'm a little ticked at them. They didn't invite me to the tailgate."

Kent State fell to 0-8 against the Big Ten. The Gophers were the first Big Ten team to play at Kent State.