Rams Clubbed by Gophers in Home Opener

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) -- A disappointing game fresh in their memory and the Big Ten season just around the corner, the Minnesota Gophers wanted to make a statement. They sure did.

Marion Barber III ran for 201 yards and two touchdowns and running mate Laurence Maroney added 132 yards, lifting No. 22 Minnesota to a 34-16 victory over winless Colorado State on Saturday night.

"We felt this was a must-win for us," Maroney said. "We didn't play too good last week and we knew we had to come out and play better. We were really focused for this."

Minnesota (3-0) was lackluster against Division I-AA Illinois State last week. The Gophers had no trouble regaining their focus against Colorado State.

Minnesota used its size advantage up front -- an average of 27 pounds more per player-- to clear huge holes for Barber and Maroney, who went over 100 yards in the same game for the sixth time, second this season.

Barber scored on a 19-yard run on Minnesota's first drive and had a nifty 61-yarder late in the first quarter, breaking two tackles and using his hand for balance twice before outrunning Colorado State's defense to the corner.

But it wasn't just the running game. Bryan Cupito hit Matt Spaeth on a pair of TD passes and Minnesota scored on four of its first five drives, finishing with over 400 yards (504) for the 11th straight game.

"They put themselves to the wall," Minnesota coach Glen Mason said. "They put their necks out and I knew they would play extremely hard."

Colorado State (0-3) was overwhelmed by Southern California and a crowd of 85,000 last week in a 49-0 loss to the top-ranked Trojans. The Rams weren't a whole lot better in front of 33,501 friendly fans in the their home opener, starting the season with three straight losses for the first time in coach Sonny Lubick's 12 seasons.

"We knew before the season started the task at had would be tough starting the season," Lubick said. "We knew we had to play error-free football in this stretch and we didn't."

Colorado State didn't have much trouble moving the ball, finishing with 298 yards, including 126 rushing after managing just 92 the first two games combined. What hurt the Rams most was turnovers (four) -- again.

Justin Holland was the main culprit -- again. He had four interceptions last week against USC and put two of his first three passes against Minnesota up for grabs. Trumaine Banks pulled down the third one down for an interception, leading to Rhys Lloyd's 36-yard field goal early in the second quarter that put the Gophers up 17-3.

Holland didn't complete a pass until hitting David Anderson for a 9-yard gain midway through the second quarter, and threw a terrible pass six plays later that was intercepted by Minnesota nose tackle Anthony Montgomery. Cupito followed with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Spaeth, giving the Gophers 296 yards and a 24-3 lead with four minutes left in the first half.

Holland finally settled down at the end of the second quarter, hitting 5-of-6 on a 71-yard scoring drive that ended with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Dustin Osborn. He finished 25-for-41 for 298 yards, but had another pass picked off by Ukee Dozier in the fourth quarter and a bad exchange on a handoff with Gartrell Johnson led to the Rams' fourth turnover. Colorado State has 11 turnovers in three games, leading to 55 points.

"You can't beat many teams turning the ball over four times in game," Lubick said. "Our confidence is shaken but we know we can play better."

The Rams had some success moving the ball in the third quarter, but two long drives resulted in field goals of 37 and 27 by Jeff Babcock. That only cut the lead to 31-16 after Minnesota opened the third quarter with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Cupito to Spaeth. Lloyd made 34-16 with an 18-yard field goal after Johnson's fumble.

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