Gophers defense shines in scrimmage

The Gophers return their two 1,000-yard rushers and some talented receivers on offense, but the consensus seems to be if the team is going to a New Years Day bowl game, the defense will have to step up. They started that process in Saturday's scrimmage.

The Gophers offense, No. 1 in the Big Ten in 2003, returns relatively intact. Bryan Cupito looked good, going 8 of 17 for 60 yards and a touchdown, in taking over the starter's role.

But the consensus from the talking heads in the sports media is that if the Gophers want to improve on last season's 10 wins, the defense will have to step up. If Saturday's intersquad scrimmage is any indication, a New Years Day Bowl game could be on the horizon.

Although no one is considering the Gophers defense a finished product, it appears that it has improved. The first-string defense held the offense to 71 yards in four series during the scrimmage. The first-string offense was held to just four first downs and three points on a Rhys Llyod field goal.

Last year the criticism of the Gopher defense was that it was young and inexperienced. With six returning starters the Gophers are more experienced in 2004, particularly in the front seven. There are still questions in the secondary and the defense did give up a couple of first downs on third-and-long, but by all reports were happy with their overall performance.

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