Holy Toledo! Gophers roll to 63-21 win in opener

The Minnesota Gophers scored touchdowns on eight of their first nine possessions and amassed 704 yards of total offense, the second-most in school history as they rolled to a 63-21 win over Toledo in their 2004 season opener. The Gophers rushed for 415 yards as they won their 13th straight non-conference game. Minnesota is now 8-0 in home openers under head coach Glen Mason, and their 63 points is the most in a season opener since 1937.

The Gophers were stopped on their first drive after three plays. However, punter Rhys Lloyd caught the Toledo special teams napping as he ran 21 yards for the first down. Bryan Cupito, making his first career start, used a play-action fake to find Jared Ellerson down the middle for a 47-yard gain. Fullback Justin Valentine scored his first touchdown of his career.


The Rockets countered with an impressive drive of their own as quarterback Bruce Gradkowski connected with Lance Moore for a 30-yard gain. The duo later got together on a 25-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 7-7.


The combination of Cupito and Ellerson was key again for the Gophers in their second drive as they connected on a 41-yard gain. Laurence Maroney capped off the drive with a 20-yard score.


Cupito hit Ernie Wheelwright on a 42-yard touchdown, giving both players their first touchdown as Gophers. The score gave the Gophers a 21-7 lead after one quarter. Cupito was seven of eight for 207 yards in the first quarter


Marion Barber III opened the second quarter with an 18-yard scoring run to cap a 90-yard drive to put Minnesota up 28-7. Cupito hit Jarod Posthumus for a 53-yard pass down the middle to key the drive. Barber scored again four minutes later, on a 1-yard run.


Maroney scored his second touchdown of the night to give the Gophers a 42-7 lead on a 1-yard run. Minnesota got the ball one last time, but the clock ran out after a three-play, 20-yard drive. The Gophers gained 464 yards in the first half.


Cupito hit Ellerson for a 33-yard pass play on the first drive of the second half. Redshirt freshman Amir Pinnix scored his first ever touchdown as he went in from 3 yards out. He rushed five times for 15 yards in the drive


Minnesota used their dominant rushing game on the next drive as they ran nine of ten plays. Freshman Gary Russell ran five times for 28 yards and Pinnix rushed three times for 29 yards on the drive. Valentine capped off the drive with a 3-yard run.


Wheelwright scored again on a 10-yard reception from backup quarterback Adam Ernst just seconds into the fourth quarter for the Gophers' final score and a 63-7 lead.


Toledo scored twice in the final quarter to make the final score 63-21.


Maroney led Minnesota's rushing attack with 108 yards on 14 carries. Pinnix had 88 yards on 17 carries and Gary Russell had 79 yards on 14 carries. Barber added 78 yards on 14 carries. Cupito finished 10 of 12 for 279 yards, while Ellerson led the receiving corps with 140 yards on four receptions.


Gradkowski ended 19 of 30 for 202 yards and Moore had 10 catches for 99 yards.


Minnesota hosts Illinois State next Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Illinois State won its home opener, beating Saint Xavier 44-14 Thursday night. Running back Demetrus Johnson  had 17 carries for 161 yards and three touchdowns and quarterback Yance Vaughan, in his first start, completed 13 of 20 passes for 225 yards and two scores.


Illinois State will be without one of its senior captains as Antwan Oliver will miss two to three weeks with a pair of fractured ribs on his left side. Oliver was an All-Gateway Newcomer Team selection last season after transferring from Eastern Illinois. He started all 12 games at left corner and led the team with 11 pass break-ups.


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