Gophers make history with record rushers

The Gophers' offensive strength is obvious, but after some time off they will look to add to an incredible NCAA rushing record.

The Gophers are back on track following their 36-10 win over Illinois and should have another easy time of it this week against lowly Indiana.

Head coach Glen Mason is more concerned about his team running out of gas than anything else. Unlike every other team in the Big Ten, the Gophers don't have a bye week.

They go straight through from Aug. 30 to Nov. 15, and then will have anywhere from 5-7 weeks off before they play in a bowl game. Mason wants his team to stay alert and gave his players two days off before they resumed practicing Tuesday.

Mason wanted his players to stay as far away from football as they could for a 48-hour period.

"We don't have a bye week, and it gets long," Mason told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

"I don't worry about them physically because we wouldn't have done much. But just from a mental standpoint. I haven't changed much up until now because we don't have a bye. These kids have been going since Aug. 4."

A less-than-focused effort should be enough to get the Gophers past the Hoosiers. Minnesota's powerful running game might end up tormenting Indiana head coach Gerry DiNardo before the game is finished. The Hoosiers gave up 603 total yards to offensively challenged Ohio State, so the Gophers could put even more massive numbers on the board.

The Gophers' strength at running the football is historical. According to a survey of the sports information directors at each of the 117 Division I-A schools, the only team in NCAA history with four 1,000-yard career rushers on the same team is this year's Minnesota squad (Thomas Tapeh, Terry Jackson, Marion Barber and Asad Abdul-Khaliq).

Unbelievably, there is an outside chance the Gophers could add to that record before the end of the season. Freshman RB Laurence Maroney has rushed for 622 yards and has four games left, including the bowl (which counts toward stats).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Gophers have a spectacular running game and they figure to be able to jam it down the Hoosiers' throats any time they feel so inclined. But Minnesota is far more than a one-dimensional team. QB Asad Abdul-Khaliq has a passer rating of 179.4, which is the best in the nation. Oklahoma QB Jason White, who is a likely Heisman Trophy finalist, is second with a rating of 174.6.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Gopher defense came back after two down weeks against Michigan and Michigan State. CB Justin Isom had a big interception against Illinois that took the heart out of the Illini. Indiana has a couple of fine runners in Brian Lewis and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but the Gophers should be able to limit their productivity.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I guess when you look at the stats, we were pretty balanced. But we ran the ball a lot more than we threw it. There's nothing balanced about that." — Minnesota head coach Glen Mason on the 57-16 run-pass ratio the Gophers had against Illinois.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Indiana at Minnesota, Nov. 24 — Another easy game looms for the Gophers before they close the season with tough outings against Wisconsin and Iowa.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Asad Abdul-Khaliq — He is the leading passer in the nation with a rating of 179.4. Nobody talks about him as a postseason award contender or as a potential NFL player, but he has a lights-out 16-4 TD-interception ratio and is also a fine runner.

RB Laurence Maroney — He may be the most explosive of the fine crew of Minnesota running backs. The Gophers are the only team in I-A history to have four 1,000-yard rushers on their roster at the same time and that number could increase to five if Maroney can rush for 378 yards in the remaining games.

INJURY IMPACT: Linebacker Terrence Campbell (stinger) is probable for Saturday's game against Illinois.

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