October 3, 2009

Post Minnesota: Notes and quotes

MINNEAPOLIS - You could see the Minnesota defense trying their hardest to slow him down, but in the end, John Clay showed the Gophers what he is about and what he is capable of.

In the end, he rushed for 184 yards on 32 carries, but his performance, numbers aside, had to be on that was frustrating for the home team. It seemed every time the Gophers would wrap him up, Clay would simply power them along and fall forward for those extra yards.

"It's kind of like watching a heavyweight boxing match," UW head coach Bret Bielema said following his team's win. "The guys who are trying to tackle him in the third and fourth quarter aren't doing it the same way they were doing it in the first half.

"He has an effect on the game and just wears you down."

That was evident, particularly in the second half. During the final 30 minutes of the game, Clay received 26 carries and converted those reps into 159 yards. That is good for an average of more than six yards per carry.

"I get in a groove," Clay, who completed his second career 30-plus-carry day, said. "Just running the ball, my linemen are helping me out. They're talking about look out for this gap because they're going to block it this way. Just listening to them, really helps out."

After only six carries in a first half, it was evident from the get go in the third quarter that the UW coaching staff wanted to establish the run. Following Scott Tolzien's fumble early in the second half, Clay touched the ball on 15 of the next 22 plays.

He didn't fumble and ran with a fierceness that had to get the Gophers attention.

"He's a good running back," Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster said. "We knew that coming in. He's a big, strong and physical guy who can get behind that big line that they've got and we just didn't do a good job of getting to the line of scrimmage like we wanted to.

"And they got some significant rushing yards."

Over the past two weeks, following an ugly three fumble performance against Wofford, Clay has rushed the ball 64 times for 326 yards. He is simply carrying the team on his back and helping the offense move the ball.

"He was just a workhorse today," Tolzien said. "He was a load. He was finishing runs. We all know that he was tired and he was winded, but he just kept fighting and clawing. You say everything about John but you can't not mention the offensive line and the way they just grinded it out."

UW offensive notes:

-Clay's 184 yards rushing is his new career high. It was his third 100-yard rushing game in 2009 and sixth of his career.

-Clay's three-touchdown day is also a career high. He now has 16 career touchdowns and was his third multi-touchdown game of the season and fifth of his career.

-Lance Kendricks' touchdown in the fourth quarter was the second of his career.

-Montee Ball received his first collegiate carry in the second quarter. He finished with four carries for five yards.

-Garrett Graham's seven-catch game tied a career high. His other seven-catch game came against Tennessee in the Outback Bowl two seasons ago.

-UW held a 295 to 57 rushing advantage in Saturday's game.

UW defensive notes:

-Chris Maragos forced his second career fumble when he hit Duane Bennett early in the game. Devin Smith would recover the fumble. It was his second career fumble recovery.

-Patrick Butrym's interception in the third quarter was the first of his career.

-For the fourth consecutive game, the UW defense forced at least three turnovers.

-Chris Borland recovered his first career fumble after junior Blake Sorensen forced Adam Weber to fumble late in the game. The recovery sealed UW's win.

Quotes following the game:

-Bret Bielema on whether his team is a Big Ten title contender:

"We're a team that I think makes a lot of improvement during the course of the week. We've got a lot of players that play. We're so young, we really are. I see different articles and stuff about the youth we have and it's kind of funny. I had several former players come up to me after last weeks game and they were staying and watching our guys come out.

"They were like, 'Who's No. 11?' I'm like, well, he's 17. He's not even 18 yet. To see guys making plays and to see Scotty Tolzien have some bumps today and move forward, those are some real positive things."

-Adam Weber on going another year without the axe:

"I've been dreaming about the axe. I feel really bad for the other guys who don't get another shot at it - the seniors this year, I feel really bad for them because it was something we really, really wanted to get. This one's going to hurt for a while."

-Kim Royston on the outcome of the game:

"I'm devastated. We lost a game that I personally think we should have won, but we didn't. That's the bottom line. I have a little pain in my heart right now."

-Gabe Carimi on the close games between UW and Minnesota:

"It's a rivalry game, and we talked about that. Coach Bielema talked to the whole team and said, 'You always have to respect a rivalry game.' It's always going to be that kind of game, that's just how it always is, so we were always expecting that. We never got out of our element when we were on highs."

-Nick Toon on the final five minutes of the game:

"It is definitely one of the most exciting games that I have been involved in personally. Very happy to come home with the axe and get ready for next week."

-Chris Maragos keeping the axe:

"I didn't hold the axe last season, purposely, because I wanted to come in my senior year and make sure that my mind was right and ready to come in here. On the road, to come in and play in Minnesota, and that's what we did. I wanted to make sure that I was making a difference out there and trying to at least and make sure that I could carry the axe as a senior.

-Tolzien on his running style:

"Slow. Yeah, it's nothing special. It's not my forte, I guess. But, I do have confidence in my legs. I realize I'm not the fastest guy, but I do have confidence that I can still make plays and keep the defense on their heels, just making them aware that I can run the ball.

"It might not be pretty, but I can get some yards."


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