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BIG TEN

Big Plays Spark 6-0 Gophers

October 05, 2003|From Associated Press

Minnesota scarcely resembled the Big Ten's highest-scoring team for much of the first half Saturday at Evanston, Ill., failing to get a first down against Northwestern for more than 21 minutes.

Then the No. 21 Golden Gophers struck suddenly, with Asad Abdul-Khaliq completing a 96-yard scoring pass to Jared Ellerson. The floodgates opened and the Gophers rolled the Wildcats, 42-17.

Abdul-Khaliq threw for three touchdowns and Marion Barber III ran for two as Minnesota improved to 6-0 (2-0 Big Ten) for the first time in 43 years entering Friday night's matchup at home against No. 9 Michigan.

"I was very pleased with how the game turned out, but I wasn't very happy with how it started," Gopher Coach Glen Mason said. "The first quarter was the worst quarter of football from my perspective I've ever been associated with as a coach.... The positive was no one panicked, no one started pointing fingers."

Minnesota, ranked third nationally in rushing, had 241 yards on the ground, 43 below its season average. But the passing attack keyed a big-play offense, carrying the Gophers to 572 yards despite the slow start.

Abdul-Khaliq, the Big Ten's leader in passing efficiency, missed on four of his first five passes before finishing 12 for 17 for 331 yards. Two of his touchdowns came on fly patterns to Ellerson -- the school-record 96-yarder and another for 82 yards.

Minnesota had only eight yards on its first four possessions. Backed up at the one and trailing, 14-0, midway in the second quarter, the Gophers appeared in danger of losing to Northwestern (2-4, 0-2) for the sixth time in eight years.

But on third down from the four, Abdul-Khaliq dropped into the end zone and heaved a pass down the right sideline to Ellerson, who was 15 yards behind the nearest defender.

No. 22 Purdue 43, Illinois 10 -- Jerod Void ran for a career-high 119 yards and four touchdowns at West Lafayette, Ind., as the Boilermakers won their seventh consecutive conference opener.

The Boilermakers (4-1, 1-0) ran for 324 yards and totaled 533 yards.

The Fighting Illini (1-5, 0-2), in losing for the fourth time in a row, gave up more than 300 rushing yards for the second consecutive week. It was Illinois' first loss to Purdue since 1998.

Void and his teammates made certain the outcome was never in doubt.

Purdue had eight first downs on its first 15 plays and had 212 yards in the first quarter. By halftime, the Boilermakers already had 200 rushing yards and 378 total yards in building a 27-3 lead.

No. 25 Michigan State 31, Indiana 3 -- Jeff Smoker tied a Spartan record with 32 completions and accounted for three touchdowns in a rout of the Hoosiers at East Lansing, Mich.

Smoker finished 32 of 40 for 351 yards with two touchdowns, a rushing score and no interceptions. He tied the school mark for completions set by John Leister, who threw 46 passes in a loss to Michigan in 1982.

Michigan State (5-1, 2-0) has won three games in a row for the first time since starting 3-0 in 2000. The Hoosiers (1-5, 0-2) lost their 11th road game in a row, dating to a victory at Michigan State on Nov. 10, 2001.

Wisconsin 30, Penn State 23 -- Jim Sorgi threw two touchdown passes at State College, Pa., as the Badgers won their second consecutive conference road game.

Booker Stanley, the third-string tailback, ran for 119 yards and one touchdown for Wisconsin (5-1, 2-0).

Special teams shortfalls doomed Penn State (2-4, 0-2), which led, 9-7, after Sean McHugh's one-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.

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