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John Rabe rambled through Wildcats tacklers after catching a first half pass and carrying it to the five yard line setting up a Minnesota touchdown on the next play.

Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

Rabe seizes a leadership role in U's young receiving corps

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO
  • Star Tribune
  • September 9, 2012 - 1:33 AM

John Rabe has a theory: If a team is winning, players are going to start standing out.

It's certainly been true of the senior tight end, who has capitalized as much as anyone in the Gophers' three consecutive victories, dating back to the final game of last season.

After scoring Minnesota's third touchdown Saturday -- giving the Gophers a double-digit lead that launched them to a 44-7 blowout of New Hampshire -- Rabe has now had at least one touchdown in each of his past three games.

Rabe shrugged. "If you're winning, people are going to have success," he said. "[I have] just maybe more confidence, I don't know, just making plays when my number is called."

His number was called three times Saturday, making him the Gophers' leader with three catches. In the play leading up to his 2-yard TD catch, Rabe hauled in a 33-yarder to set it up.

"He's one of those guys that defenses tend to forget about at times," quarterback MarQueis Gray said, smiling. "But they tend to recognize him when he's scoring those touchdowns."

The junior college transfer from Ellsworth (Iowa) Community College had just four receptions in 12 games last season with two touchdowns, benchmarks he's already eclipsed this year after catching two passes, both for TDs, in the season-opening victory at UNLV. With the greater production comes greater responsibility.

Collin McGarry caught 16 passes last year. This year, with McGarry graduated, Rabe is picking up some of the slack.

He's used his varied experience, as well as his age -- a veteran at 21 among a youthful group of pass-catchers -- to become a leader on the bench and in the huddle.

He calls himself "another position coach" in certain situations with the tight ends.

If the Gophers continue to show improvement running the ball -- they topped 200 yards for the second consecutive week -- it opens up receivers on offense.

The first touchdown to wide receiver Issac Fruechte came on a play-action pass, a feature the Gophers have been trying to utilize more.

"We're just a lot more comfortable with the offense, too, and we know the scheme, what [offensive coordinator Matt] Limegrover wants us to do," the 6-4, 258 pound Rabe said.

"We know how to make adjustments quicker. ... If they do something different, it's easier for us to make that adjustment just because we're more comfortable with the whole offense in general."

Head coach Jerry Kill is getting more comfortable with him, too.

"He's certainly come up with some big plays," Kill said. "He's a hard-working kid. He does everything that you ask him to do.

"We're going to continue to try to push the ball that way because he's been successful."

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