Say this for Zac Epping: He's a stand-up guy.
The 20-year-old sophomore had a difficult time on Saturday, filling in at center and having a role in a couple of fumbled snaps. But there he was Tuesday, answering questions about the loss and his mistakes at the Gophers' weekly press conference. Epping said the steady drizzle that fell during the game made life harder and the football slicker, and some confusing shouts by the Northwestern defense didn't help, either. "We'd be sitting there in our stance, and the defense would start screaming, yelling," Epping said. "(It's hard) to stay focused on the quarterback's voice."
But he didn't use any of that as an excuse.
"I have to eliminate the mistakes," he said. "We could have had a lot more big plays."
Epping, who played high school ball at Tremper High in Kenosha, Wis., was replaced for much of the second half by Zach Mottla, who opened the season as the starter before spraining an ankle against New Hampshire. "Zac Epping's hands were real beat up. He's had some hand issues before," said offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover. "We weren't 100 percent sure if Zach Mottla was ready to go, but we got to halftime and said, 'We've got to find this out, one way or another. (Snaps are) something that Zach's very dependable on, and it got better after halftime."
Epping wasn't the only culprit in the Gophers' fumble troubles; they dropped the ball seven times, after all, losing it twice. The most notable was Lamonte Edwards' error on the opening kickoff, a mistake that Northwestern quickly turned into a touchdown, but one that A.J. Barker, who returns punts for the Gophers, said he could relate to.
"That's tough to deal with, because anyone that's been back there has dropped a ball at one time or another," Barker said. "You know how it can happen. So yeah, I feel for Lamonte on that. He's a great, tough kid and he'll bounce back."