Accolades pile up for Gopher players

Gopher athletes have been clearing mantel space all year to display their Big Ten and national awards. Four more of Goldy's finest brought home some hardware this week.

The football team relied on some outstanding individual performances to pull out a 37-34 victory over Wisconsin on Saturday, their first victory over a ranked opponent this season. Freshman running back Laurence Maroney was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts, while kicker/punter Rhys Lloyd won the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

Maroney rushed for 135 yards on just 15 carries – an average of 9.0 yards a touch – and scored the game's first touchdown, a 30-yard run in the first quarter. It was his ninth rushing touchdown of the season, already the 11th-best total for any season by a Gopher. He's rushed for more than 100 yards in a game four times this year, including three straight games. He needs just 79 yards in the Gophers' final two games to top 1,000 for the season.

Lloyd had an even bigger day on Saturday, hitting the game-winning field goal at the final gun and leading the charge to the Wisconsin sideline to bring the Paul Bunyan Axe back to Minnesota for the next 12 months. It was also the first game-winning field goal for a Gopher since Dan Nystrom beat Penn State in 1999.

The junior from Dover, England, was 3-for-3 on field goals and 4-for-4 on extra points against Wisconsin for a season-high 13 points. He also punted three times for a 40.0-yard average.

The Gophers play at Iowa Saturday with a chance to post a 10-win season and secure their first New Year's Day bowl bid in more than 40 years. Kickoff is at 11 a.m. and the game can be seen on ESPN.

Baseball earns early kudos: Two Gophers were named to the preseason National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association All-American team, released Tuesday.

Sophomore pitcher Glen Perkins of Stillwater, Minn., was named to the second team, while senior centerfielder Sam Steidl of Alexandria, Minn., received third-team honors.

Perkins was a second-team all-America selection last year as a freshman when the lefty went 10-2 with a 2.91 ERA and set a team record with 117 strikeouts. He was the first pitcher in Big Ten history to post an 8-0 record in conference play.

Steidl hit .367 last year and led the Big Ten with 87 hits. He was named first-team all-Big Ten after his junior year, and finished in the top ten in the conference in batting average and slugging percentage.

Coach John Anderson's Gophers get the 2004 season under way with their annual alumni game on Feb. 9 at the Metrodome, and open their regular season at Florida Atlantic on Feb. 27.

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