The feeling in the Minnesota locker room was one of shock.
The Gophers thought they had gotten their season back on track with a 45-0 win over Illinois, but a road trip to Indiana proved to be a bitter pill — as it almost always is.
The Gophers lost at Indiana for the seventh consecutive time since 1985. The running game was unable to get going against an Indiana defense that had been quite soft through the first seven games. The Hoosiers did a great job of controlling Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber. Neither was able to shake loose for the long runs that have marked their play for the past two seasons.
The Gophers love to go over the top to big-play WRs Ernie Wheelwright and Jared Ellerson, but the windy conditions in Bloomington did not support that part of the game. QB Bryan Cupito tried to get his passing game in gear, but he was largely ineffective after the Gophers took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
The key play came early in the second quarter when Cupito's pass to Wheelwright went directly into the arms of safety Will Lumpkin, who ran 42 yards into the end zone to give the Hoosiers a jolt of energy.
"You get a 14-0 lead, and then you make a mistake and you have a turnover," said Glen Mason. "Not only do you have a turnover, but you give up seven points and then give them momentum."
After that play, Cupito was simply not effective. He completed just 11-of-30 passes for 182 yards for the game with two TDs and one interception.
This team had high hopes just one month ago. They were not only dreaming of a Big Ten championship, but possibly even greater heights. Now, a third loss in the Big Ten all but assures that this team will be playing in a second-tier bowl for the third season in a row.
It only gets tougher as the Gophers travel to Wisconsin to face the undefeated Badgers.
GAME BALL GOES TO: RB Laurence Maroney — The game started in impressive fashion for the Gophers when Maroney scored on a 4-yard run midway through the first quarter. However, the heretofore ordinary Indiana defense rose up and shackled Minnesota. Maroney had decent numbers — 16 carries for 92 yards — but he did not have the explosive runs that have marked his season.
KEEP AN EYE ON: C Greg Eslinger — The Gophers are supposed to have one of the best offenses in the nation, but they got stopped by the 110th-rated Indiana defense. Eslinger is the key to the offensive line. That unit got tied up by a rather ordinary front four. How will Minnesota respond against rock-solid Wisconsin?
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've got two tough teams ahead of us, and we've lost to two mediocre teams in the league this year. It's like we played Michigan so tough and we lose to Michigan State and Indiana. Who knows what Gophers team is going to show up?" — Minnesota DE Darrell Reid.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: The practice field — Glen Mason has to tap into this team's heart. Since the loss to Michigan on Oct. 9, this team has lost its confidence. Few teams in the Big Ten can match this team's talent on offense, but the Gophers are playing uninspired football. They could be in for a pounding at Wisconsin if they can't repair their psyche.
STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: When the Gophers get an opponent down, they have to learn to close the deal. Minnesota had a 14-0 lead after a quarter and seemed to be on the verge of running Indiana out of the ballpark. Instead, Bryan Cupito's interception was returned 42 yards for a score and Indiana had a spark that led to a 30-21 upset.
ROSTER REPORT: Defensive backs Trumaine Banks (leg) and Justin Fraley (calf) didn't play against the Hoosiers, each missing his second consecutive game. Quentin White started at strong safety in place in of Fraley, and Jamal Harris started at cornerback in place of Banks.
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