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Continued: U recruiting class not a big factor in victory

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 31, 2008 - 11:30 PM

One question Gophers football fans were asking Sunday, the day after the team opened the 2008 season with a 31-27 victory over Northern Illinois, is why only eight members of what coach Tim Brewster described as one of the great recruiting classes in the country saw action.

Not one of the 2008 recruiting class started on offense. On defense, there were two starters -- junior college transfers and defensive backs Traye Simmons and Tramaine Brock.

As for the other six Gophers newcomers who saw action among the 46 players to play for the home team, two were junior college transfers -- safety Simoni Lawrence and defensive end Cedric McKinley. The four freshmen who played were running back DeLeon Eskridge, defensive linemen Jewhan Edwards and Brandon Kirksey and cornerback Troy Stoudermire.

David Pittman, one of the top junior college transfers, didn't play because of injury, but he is expected to play at Bowling Green on Saturday.

It was surprising that freshman Brandon Green, one of the outstanding receiver recruits, dressed but did not play.

"What everybody knows is how hard it is to play in the Big Ten, you just don't jump in in your first game as a true freshman," Brewster said Sunday. "We wanted some of those young guys to get a chance to feel the atmosphere, to feel the environment. Those young kids are going to play and help us win games this season. We just felt like with the game that went like it went [Saturday] night, we'd be better served with some guys that have been on the field before."

Praises Decker

Brewster said he phoned Gophers baseball coach John Anderson after Saturday night's game and thanked him for allowing wide receiver Eric Decker to play baseball this past spring.

"He did a heck of a job in center field," said Brewster, praising Decker for knocking down Northern Illinois' final Hail Mary pass into the end zone.

Decker came in to play safety at the end of the game; on offense, he finished with team highs of 10 receptions for 89 yards, including the first touchdown of the game.

"Eric Decker is truly one of the best college football players in America," Brewster said. "He had 10 catches and he had six in the first quarter in the first drive. He's just an amazing young football player."

Decker appeared to have a second touchdown in the second quarter, but Adam Weber's 23-yard pass to him was ruled incomplete after Decker couldn't hang on to the ball in the end zone. Brewster requested and was granted a replay, but officials did not overturn the ruling.

"As we looked at the videotape, and I'm going to turn it into the Big Ten, there's not a doubt in my mind that that was a catch in the end zone, that they said he did not control," Brewster said.

Jottings

One interesting fact about the Gophers victory is that the Huskies passed for zero yards in the first quarter but finished with 326 yards in the remaining three quarters. ... The announced crowd of 44,029 at the Metrodome was larger than expected, with a good walk-up gate sale helping increase the attendance. ... The University of Minnesota paid Northern Illinois $175,000 as a guarantee to play here.

The Gophers have sold 37 of the 45 suites available in their new football stadium at $45,000 each. The remaining eight should move in a hurry.

Bowling Green was a 13-point underdog to 25th-ranked Pittsburgh and trailed 14-0 early in the game but upset the Panthers 27-17 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Bowling Green was able to hold Pitt to 46 yards rushing in the last three quarters after Pittsburgh had outgained Bowling Green 137-6 in the first quarter. "Well, I looked at that Pitt-Bowling Green tape and unfortunately for Pittsburgh they turned the ball over four times," Brewster said. "I think that was the biggest thing that hurt Pitt was the turnovers. But take nothing away from Bowling Green. We know how good they are, we played them last year, and so what we'll do is we'll take a good hard look at the tape and figure out the things that we need to do."

The Gophers will definitely add a seventh home game for the 2010 season now that Air Force has canceled the game between the two scheduled at Air Force that year. That will give the Gophers seven home games and five road games in 2010.

Twins second baseman Alexi Casilla was having a hard time regaining his batting stroke since coming back from a thumb injury, which still might not be 100 percent. Casilla was dropped in the batting order during the Oakland series but had a three-hit game Friday and a two-run homer in Sunday's 12-4 victory. ... The Twins, who appeared to catch a break when they missed Seattle ace Felix Hernandez in all three of their series against the Mariners in August, will dodge Toronto ace Roy Halladay this week. Halladay pitched Sunday against the Yankees.

Several former Gophers players survived NFL cutdown day over the weekend, but one not as fortunate was wide receiver Ernie Wheelwright, who was released by Baltimore on Saturday. Former Gophers who made the cut included wide receiver Logan Payne with Seattle, running back Gary Russell and tight end Matt Spaeth with Pittsburgh, defensive back Dominic Barber with Houston and kicker Rhys Lloyd as a kickoff specialist for Carolina. ... Former Vikings who were cut included quarterback Todd Bouman, receiver Ryan Hoag and running back Ciatrick Fason with Jacksonville and running back Artose Pinner and quarterback Drew Henson with Detroit.

In four starts since leaving the Twins and joining Colorado, veteran righthander Livan Hernandez is 1-3 with a 11.09 ERA. He has given up 23 runs, 30 hits and five home runs in in 18 2/3 innings with his new team.

Ames Construction of Burnsville had the $17 million contract to build the 2 1/2 acres of bridge deck that will be used as the the main entrances into the new Twins ballpark. According to Ames, to build these decks the construction company needed 80,000 linear feet of piling -- over 15 miles -- along with 3 million pounds of rebar, 11,000 cubic feet of concrete, 105 pressed beams (one semi-load for each beam), 253,000 pounds of structural steel and 1,700 feet of concrete barrier rail. Most of the work is done.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

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