Gophers quarterback Rickey Foggie received mixed reviews on his comeback, but it was good enough to steer the Gophers to a 30-10 victory over Central Michigan Saturday night in the Metrodome.
Minnesota will take a 3-0 record into its Big Ten opener against Purdue next Saturday night in the Dome.
Foggie, coming off a two-game NCAA suspension, showed a running flair worthy of his nickname, "Sweet Feet." He gained 105 yards on 12 carries and scored on a 33-yard run.
His passing, however, was spotty: He was 8 of 16 for 73 yards and had two interceptions, the last setting up Central Michigan's only touchdown.
"Rickey was a little rusty," Gophers coach John Gutekunst said. "He threw some deep passes well but also made some bad throws.
"It's not easy to sit out two weeks and keep the same timing down."
Foggie said it would probably take another week before he gets it down.
Said CMU coach Herb Deromedi: "He (Foggie) didn't make any critical mistakes" despite the interceptions.
Foggie found fault with himself, however.
"I've got to improve my passing, learn to look off defenders more instead of throwing right to the guy I'm looking at," the four-year starter said.
But as a runner, Foggie looked downright dashing, bringing the crowd of 46,868 to its feet with a 33-yard touchdown run that gave the Gophers a 10-0 lead in the second quarter. Rolling left on the option, Foggie raced down the left sideline, then cut inside, avoiding two tacklers and scoring standing up.
"I felt good running the option," Foggie said. "I'm getting my mobility back, and I think that (running the option) is what I do best. I've got the most confidence in the option. I think it kept me and the team going."
Foggie got an ovation both when he was announced as a starter and when he went out to assume control in the first quarter. He completed his first pass, for 5 yards, to tight end Craig Otto, who made a diving, scooping catch. It came on third-and-3 and gave Minnesota a first down at its 34.
Eight plays later, the Gophers had a first-and-goal at the CMU 1, thanks to flanker Gary Couch's 19-yard run with an option pitch.
But three running plays lost a yard, and the Gophers settled for Chip Lohmiller's 19-yard field goal, his first of three for the night.
"I thought (fullback) Ed Penn scored on one of the dives we had," Foggie said of the Gophers' goal-line attack. "Unfortunately, the officials didn't."
Gophers running back Darrell Thompson, who ran for 156 yards in each of the first two games, finished last night with 58 yards in 19 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that sent the Gophers into the locker room with a 17-0 lead.
Foggie said the Chippewas (1-2) were keying on Thompson, as indeed they were. That helped Foggie, who instead of pitching to the trailing Thompson on the option often kept the ball.
"The first half we executed the option well," Gutekunst said. "The second half we had a number of busted perimeter assignments. (Linebacker) Jon Leverenz and (cornerback) Chuck McCree did a good job defensively."
Leverenz played his third straight strong game, making nine unassisted tackles and three assisted tackles. He made one tackle for a loss and intercepted a pass.
Leverenz's necktie tackle when CMU had the ball on its goal line almost gave the Gophers a safety. He intercepted quarterback Marcelle Carruthers' underthrown pass in the third quarter and ran 34 yards to the CMU 35. Thompson ran for 11 yards and a first down on the first play, but the Gophers then had to settle for Lohmiller's 36-yard field goal for a 20-0 lead.
After Central Michigan could not move, Alan Holt came in to relieve Foggie for the only time in the game and called six plays. Holt, a junior, had started the first two games. Gutekunst said the substitution had been planned.
On the last play, a second-and-5 from the Minnesota 49, Couch took a pitch from Holt on a flanker reverse and raced 45 yards for a touchdown, giving Minnesota a 27-0 lead.
CMU's Kevin Nicholl, a left-footed soccer-style kicker who had missed two field goals, finally connected from 48 yards with 58 seconds left in the third quarter. Lohmiller came back with a 38-yarder in the fourth quarter, making the score 30-3.
With about eight minutes left in the game, Foggie threw his second interception, and Rich Curtiss took it 24 yards to the Minnesota 14. Four plays later, Carruthers, who completed 10 of 29 passes for 112 yards, rolled right and scored from 2 yards out.
Deromedi was upset with an official's ruling on Foggie's first interception early in the second quarter. Minnesota, leading 3-0, was at midfield when Foggie sent Couch on a post pattern. However, Couch tripped and fell and cornerback Howard Young intercepted at the 1 and fell back into the end zone. Deromedi argued that it was a touchback, and CMU should take over at its 20. Instead, Leverenz and Co. kept CMU pinned near its goal and a 37-yard punt set up Foggie's 33-yard touchdown run.
On the ensuing kickoff, Mac Stephens and Joel Brown hit Donnie Riley, forcing a fumble that Lohmiller recovered at the CMU 31. Thompson later scored from the one.
"It was a great momentum swing when the score went from 3-0 to 17-0," Deromedi said. "But we've got to respond to it."