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Minnesota's struggles coming at wrong time



Published: Wed, October 25, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Gophers are wondering what's wrong with their offense.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Sure, those 1,000-yard rushers were going to be missed and the two All-American linemen were going to be tough to replace, but Minnesota's offense was still supposed to be strong.

It was going OK until the last two weeks. Suddenly, consecutive poor performances have the Gophers wondering what's wrong and how they've slipped to eighth in the Big Ten in average yards per game (359.5).

In a 48-12 loss at Wisconsin, they gained only 200 yards. In a 10-9 win over North Dakota State, they gained only 249 yards against a Division I-AA team.

"We should be scoring at least 25 points it seems like every game," quarterback Bryan Cupito said. "We've got talent. We're just not making the plays."

The blame can be equally applied to Cupito, the receivers, the running backs and the linemen.

"We're not clicking on a lot of plays and it seems like every play, someone is messed up," Cupito said. "It's a lot of guys. It's not just one guy."

Missing in action

All-Big Ten tight end Matt Spaeth, a dominant blocker and difficult-to-defend receiver, is the only player who has been consistently up to par.

Guess what? He's out for this week's game against top-ranked Ohio State with an unspecified injury. Spaeth will be replaced by sophomore Jack Simmons.

"I don't know how long he's out for, but it's tough to lose him -- especially because a lot of teams key on him," Cupito said. "When he goes out for passes, they're keeping their guys in to stay on him, so I don't know how defenses are going to go against us now."

The senior sounded a bit exasperated, thinking about the recent struggles and the prospect of facing the unbeaten Buckeyes' defense on their home field.

"I don't know how we're going to attack this team, because they've got talent everywhere," Cupito said.

Coach Glen Mason was so upset during the fourth quarter against NDSU that he called for a no-huddle offense just to try something different.

"I was tired of seeing the crap that was I watching out there. That's about as accurate as I can be," he said after Saturday's game.

This week, Mason said he hasn't seen a lack of confidence in the offense -- but that he thinks "there's a certain amount of frustration."

Locally, Mason -- who signed a four-year contract extension last winter -- has been facing an increased amount of frustration from fans. For the second straight week, he spent considerable time insisting he's not overly concerned by it.

"I've been to tough places. I've been there before. When I say that I don't worry about that, it's probably not totally true, but I worry about it a heck of a lot less than you guys think," Mason said.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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