Third Quarter Surge Carries Gophers to Bowl Eligibility
Saturday, November 5, 2005

Gophers Driving against IndianaThe sun came out in the second half over Indiana’s Memorial Stadium Saturday, but the team it shined on was the Minnesota Gophers. Propelled by four third-quarter touchdowns, the Gophers overcame a halftime deficit en route to a 42-21 victory, their sixth win of the season, which made Minnesota eligible for a bowl game for the fourth consecutive season.

The initially overcast skies over Bloomington, Indiana, in the first half reflected the Gophers’ first-half performance, when they scored only seven points despite 280 yards of offense. Three times they got inside the Indiana 35 yard line without scoring. After initial sluggishness, the Hoosiers put together a pair of second-quarter scoring drives to take a 14-7 lead.

Minnesota quarterback Bryan Cupito connected on his first six passes of the game, three on the team’s first drive, which brought them to the Indiana 17 yard line before stalling. Jason Giannini then missed a 31-yard field goal attempt.

Minnesota scored on its next possession with Cupito completing two more passes along with a swing-pass lateral. The big play of the drive came when Micah Rucker reached over cornerback Leslie Majors for a 36-yard reception that gave the Gophers the ball on the Indiana 6. Three play later, fullback Justin Valentine scored from one yard out. With Giannini’s conversion, the Gophers had a 7-0 lead.

Indiana began its first scoring drive midway through the second half. Blake Powers hit James Bailey for a pair of long passes, the latter a 29-yard gain on a third-and-12 from the Minnesota 34. The Gophers blitzed on the play, but Powers got the time he needed to find Bailey as running back Chris Taylor blocked Minnesota Mario Reese. On the next play, Reese carried the ball into the end zone for the tying touchdown.

Indiana tried a curious on-side kick with Austin Starr popping up the ball. Jason Lamers called for a fair catch at the Minnesota 44. The Gophers got down to the Indiana 32 yard line, were then called for offensive pass interference, and finally gave up the ball as Jakari Wallace was unable to scoop an underthrown pass from Cupito on fourth-and-11.

Indiana mounted another drive. On a third-and-four from the Indiana 40, Marcus Thigpen caught a pass in traffic, then evaded the grasp of three Gophers and ran down to the Minnesota 19. Powers then hit Jahkeen Gilmore for 18 yards to set up a one-yard touchdown sneak by Powers with just under two minutes left.

Minnesota was poised to get points back as Cupito completed passes to Ernie Wheelwright and Logan Payne, the latter that got a 15-yard bonus when Payne was hit out of bounds. The Gophers got the ball down to the 2 yard line with five seconds left. Minnesota coach Glen Mason decided to take another shot at the end zone. However, not only did Cupito underthrow Payne, he took too much time and the clock ran out, denying the Gophers a chance for a last-second field goal.

Mason lambasted his team in the locker room at halftime, but it was superb field position that made the difference for the Gophers in their comeback.

Indiana was stopped on its first series of downs and punted. Minnesota started at its own 35. Three runs by Gary Russell covered 56 yards, and Laurence Maroney covered the final nine yards on a pair of carries. Following the touchdown, Minnesota failed to tie the game as Giannini missed the conversion attempt, leaving Indiana with a 14-13 lead.

Although shaky with his placekicking, Giannini used the wind at his back to make his first of four consecutive kickoffs that Indiana was unable to run back. The Hoosiers thus started their next four drives from their 20. This one lasted only two plays. After a four-yard run by Yamar Washington, Powers had his pass tipped off the fingers of Gilmore into the arms of Gophers lineman Anthony Montgomery at the Indiana 31.

Gary Russell carried the ball four times for 21 yards on the ensuing drive, including a two-yard touchdown run. Combined with a two-point conversion, the Gophers took a 21-14 lead.

Following another long kickoff by Giannini, another brief possession by the Hoosiers, and a short punt, the Gophers got the ball on their 49. Cupito had a couple of big completions on the drive, one to Wallace for 29 yards and another to tight end Matt Spaeth for a 17-yard touchdown. Later in the quarter, Russell capped a six-play drive with a six-yard touchdown run. Even though Giannini hit the right upright for his second missed conversion of the quarter, Minnesota had a 34-14 lead.

The Gophers gained 211 yards in the third quarter, meaning its average touchdown drive of the third quarter was barely 51 yards.

Indiana did score a touchdown on its next possession, but the drive took nearly seven-and-a-half minutes, too much time for a team so far behind.

The Gophers scored one more time, Russell getting his third touchdown run, and Minnesota had its first win at Indiana in 20 years.

Russell was the game’s leading rusher, with 188 yards on 28 carries. Maroney, hobbled by an ankle bruised on the first drive of the game, had 85 yards.

For Indiana, its leading receivers were Gilmore with six catches and Thigpen and Bailey with 86 and 51 yards, respectively. The Hoosiers’ leading receiver, James Hardy, caught only one pass for seven yards.

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