Print and Go Back College Football [Print without images]

Sunday, September 14, 2003
Gophers are off and running with Marion Barber III

ATHENS, Ohio -- Marion Barber III took it in stride.

The sophomore running back eclipsed 1,000 career rushing yards and tied a school record with four touchdowns in Minnesota's 42-20 victory against Ohio on Saturday, and all he did was shrug.

"I'm just happy that I'm out here with the team," he said.

Barber rarely shows any emotion, not even on a day when he rushed for a game-high 104 yards on 18 carries and scored touchdowns on runs of 3, 4, 2 and 19 yards, while Minnesota rolled up 415 total yards.

Barber's four rushing touchdowns tied the school record shared by four players (Curtis Wilson, Jim Carter, John King and Darrell Thompson).

He now has eight rushing touchdowns in three games this season, one more than he had in 11 games as a freshman. Minnesota's other two co-No. 1 running backs, Thomas Tapeh and Terry Jackson II, have accounted for two touchdowns combined.

Barber scored on his team's first two possessions and made his third touchdown with one second left in the first half. Minnesota was facing fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line. After a time-out, Barber scored nearly untouched on an option toss thanks to a mammoth Tapeh block.

"The decision to go for it on fourth down at the two-yard line, it looked good because it works," Minnesota coach Glen Mason said. "If it doesn't look good, what the heck?"

Barber shared the glory with Tapeh.

"As big as he is," Barber said of the 230-pound Tapeh, "he opens the hole the way the offensive line does."

Mason said it is purely coincidence that Barber's name has been called so many times in scoring situations. Even Barber seemed perplexed by it.

"I don't know why that is," he said. "I'm just glad we came up with the win."

Mason wasn't so happy with a Gopher defense that gave up 193 yards in the first half and missed an inordinate number of tackles as it allowed the Bobcats to mount drives of 58, 60 and 77 yards.

The Gophers did their best to prepare for Ohio's multidimensional flexbone offense during practice, but it was nothing like seeing football's version of the Rubik's Cube in person. A halftime pep and some adjustments turned Minnesota around.

"It's hard to play football without emotion," Mason said. "It's impossible to play defense without it."

The Gophers got the message and held Ohio to 152 yards in the second half.

"He told us we get only 12 opportunities to show people what we work for all the time," linebacker Ben West said. "We had only one more half to do it."

Ohio quarterback Fred Ray rushed for 93 yards and three touchdowns. He also completed 14-of-22 passes for 123 yards and an interception for the Bobcats (1-2).

Asad Abdul-Khaliq was 9-of-14 for 146 yards with a touchdown and an interception for Minnesota (3-0). He threw a 3-yard TD pass to Aaron Hosack in the second and also scored on a 13-yard run in the fourth.

Minnesota hosts Louisiana-Lafayette next Saturday before beginning Big Ten play Sept. 27 at Penn State.