Gophers Cruise by Temple 62-0
Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Minnesota Gophers were coming off a bad loss, 42-17, at California, but their opponents, the Temple Owls, were coming off a bad loss, 62-0, against Louisville on top of a bad 2005 season in which they went 0-11. In the matchup of these two teams, the Gophers showed they are the equal of Louisville as they defeated Temple by a similar score of 62-0.

Both coaches, Glen Mason of Minnesota and first-year Owls coach Al Golden, stressed the youths of their team. But the inexperience was evident as they came to Minnesota with 22 true freshmen on their traveling squad. Nearly all of their freshman got in to the game. Likewise, the Gophers tried to empty their bench in the second half. “The best thing about today,” said Mason in his post-game press conference, “is that we got to play a lot of players.”

Golden, who was a defensive coordinator for five years at Virginia, the team that beat Mason’s Gophers in last year’s Music City Bowl, said of the thrashing, “I’m disappointed, but I’m not going to get discouraged. We have a plan, we have a model, and we’re going to stick to it.” Temple, a long-time independent, has five Mid-American Conference games this season and will join the MAC as a full member next season. Meanwhile, the Owls have games against tough teams from outside the conference, including Clemson and Penn State, to look forward to this year.

Temple’s high point in this game may have been its first play from scrimmage, as the Owls started at their own 20 yard line (following the first of five straight unreturned kickoffs by Minnesota’s Joel Monroe). The Owls shifted their line to the left and sophomore quarterback Adam DiMichele faked a handoff before rolling right and finding another sophomore, wide receiver Bruce Francis, for a 13-yard gain. Freshman tailback Jason Harper was able to pick up only five yards on the next two carries, however. On third down, Minnesota’s Steve Davis chased DiMichele from the pocket. The Owls quarterback threw on the run into the arms of the Gophers’ Dominique Barber, who returned the interception 12 yards to the Temple 40. The Gophers needed a fourth-down sneak by quarterback Bryan Cupito to keep their drive going. After a four-yard run by linebacker-turned-tailback Alex Daniels to the Temple 25, Cupito swung a pass to Logan Payne who stiff-armed cornerback Evan Cooper, allowing him to turn the corner and rumble down the sideline into the end zone. Jason Giannini’s point after put the Gophers ahead 7-0 with fewer than three minutes gone in the game.

The Gophers got the ball back quickly as Eric Clark and Steve Davis converged on DiMichele, who was attempting to pass on third down. They not only brought DiMichele down 14 yards behind the line of scrimmage, they forced a fumble that was recovered by Willie VanDeSteeg at the Temple 9. On a fourth-and-goal from the two, Cupito lofted a play-action pass to Payne, who was wide open in the end zone.

Temple managed to get through another possession without punting. The first two drives were stopped by an interception and a fumble, the next one on a bad snap on a punt attempt. Punter Jake Brownell was able to corral the high snap but was brought down by Jay Thomas as the Owls 12 yard line as he attempted to run. After a two-yard run by Amir Pinnix, Cupito went over the middle to hit Payne, who raced into the corner of the end zone past safety Chris Page.

Temple almost lost the ball on its next play from scrimmage as Domerio Hamilton fumbled DiMichele’s pitch; however, Hamilton was able to recover the ball for a six-yard loss. DiMichele was then sacked for another loss, this one of four yards, leaving them far enough back that even DiMichele’s third-down scamper could not get them a first down. This time Brownell was able to get his punt off, and the Gophers started from their own territory for the first time. They moved 46 yards in four plays, the big ones a 14-yard completion to Payne and a 29-yeard run by Thomas. Pinnix then ran for a 20-yard touchdown as time expired in the fourth quarter, which ended with the Gophers in front, 28-0.

The Owls mounted their first sustained drive to begin the second quarter, but Danny Murphy’s 36-yard field-goal attempt was wide to the left. The Owls defense held the Gophers, but a roughing-the-kicker penalty on fourth-down extended the drive for Minnesota. Cupito and Payne hooked up again, for 18 yards, to get into Temple territory, and the drive continued into the end zone, Daniels covering the final nine yards on the ground.

Minnesota forced another punt and got a break as Trumaine Banks dropped the ball after signaling for a fair catch, only to have the ball roll out of bounds at the Minnesota 33. It took only one play for the Gophers to score, as Cupito hit Payne for the senior receiver’s fourth touchdown reception of the game, this one for 67 yards.

Giannini added a 33-yard field goal in the final minute of the half to send the Gophers into the locker room with a 45-0 lead.

The second half featured the two teams’ reserves as Tony Mortensen and Mike Maciejowski spelled Cupito for the Gophers, who stuck the ground in the final two quarters. Terrence Sherrer ended up as the Gophers leading rusher, as he carried 16 times for 89 yards and a touchdown. Mortensen also scored on a four-yard run, and redshirt-freshman Judd Smith took the ball into the end-zone, only to have his 15-yard run called back because of a Minnesota penalty.

The Gophers totaled 284 yards on the ground. In addition to Sherrer’s 89 yards, Pinnix ran for 83 yards on only seven attempts, and Daniels rushed 10 times for 45 yards.

Cupito finished the day with eight completions in 12 attempts for 148 yards. Logan Payne was the leading receiver with six catches for 136 yards.

The game gave the Gophers a tune-up of sorts as they then looked ahead to their Big Ten opener the following week at Purdue. One of the wags in Mason’s press conference noted that former Temple football players were used in the movie Invincible, adding, “The movie would have been even better had the producers used real football players.”

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