MINNEAPOLIS -- With a 31-0 lead midway through the second quarter Saturday, Minnesota looked like it was ready for the Big Ten.
The Golden Gophers' performance over the next 30-plus minutes, though, may have made them reconsider.
"We went from dominating that game to being dominated, and that's a scary feeling," coach Glen Mason said after the Gophers' 41-17 victory over Buffalo.
Between Thomas Tapeh's two touchdowns, the last one putting the Gophers up by 24 with 6:28 remaining, the Bulls outgained the Gophers 179-115 in total yards and outscored them 17-3.
With the Big Ten beckoning next weekend, the Gophers have some work to do.
"Against Purdue, we'll have to play a lot better," Mason said. "It's going to take a maximum effort from the Gopher offense, defense and kicking game for us to have a chance."
Minnesota gained 299 yards on the ground, including 124 by Terry Jackson II, but Mason wasn't satisfied with the running game.
"Not very good," Mason said. "I don't think we were very polished. We've got to be better."
The Bulls (1-3), playing a Big Ten team for the first time since Michigan beat them 128-0 in 1901, are a Mid-American Conference team that's only been playing at the Division I-A level since 1999.
"We all enjoyed playing against a Big Ten team," quarterback Randall Secky said. "We weren't intimidated at all."
Shortly before Secky's TD pass to Andre Forde cut Minnesota's lead to 31-14 with 9 seconds left in the first half, Mason screamed at his players in a huddle near the sideline. The rant continued in the locker room.
"Coach was kind of upset," Jackson said. "We didn't execute the way we should've."
That's the way Mason saw it, too.
"I was mad at players, I was mad at coaches, I was mad at me," Mason said.
Minnesota is 4-0 for the first time since 1999, though the Gophers' wins have come against Southwest Texas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Toledo and now Buffalo. But the players on this young team say bring on the Big Ten.
"We have a lot of confidence," Abdul-Khaliq said. "I think we're a team to be reckoned with. When we go out there and we're clicking on all cylinders, we can be one of the hardest teams to stop in the Big Ten."
Despite the rough stretches, the Gophers are one of only four undefeated teams in the league, which mostly struggled from top to bottom on Saturday.
The running game is functioning well behind an offensive line that starts two freshman. Asad Abdul-Khaliq has 10 touchdown passes and just one interception. Kicker Dan Nystrom seems to have recovered from his struggles last year. And the defense, ranked eighth in the nation in total yards allowed entering the game, gave up only 58 yards outside of the second quarter Saturday.
But a less-than-complete game won't cut it against Purdue, even though the Boilermakers are just 2-2 after a home loss to Wake Forest on Saturday.
"We continue to miss too many tackles," Mason said. "We were erratic on offense. We missed opportunities, big plays on the passing game. We've got a lot of work to do, a lot of improvement to be made."
Buffalo 0 14 0 3 -- 17
Minnesota 17 14 3 7 -- 41
Min--Gruening 3 run (Nystrom kick), 12:26.
Min--FG Nystrom 33, 4:55.
Min--Ellerson 26 pass from Abdul-Khaliq (Nystrom kick), :10.
Min--Ellerson 18 pass from Abdul-Khaliq (Nystrom kick), 11:29.
Min--Tapeh 2 run (Nystrom kick), 8:09.
Buf--Leeper 7 run (Pelz kick), 5:27.
Buf--Forde 6 pass from Secky (Pelz kick), :09.
Min--FG Nystrom 26, 3:46.
Buf--FG Pelz 41, 10:19.
Min--Tapeh 48 pass from Abdul-Khaliq (Nystom kick), 6:28.
First downs 14 26
Rushes-yards 28-49 54-299
Passing 190 189
Comp-Att-Int 20-35-0 16-20-0
Return Yards 122 157
Punts-Avg. 9-45 3-41
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 4-45 1-10
Time of Possession 26:47 33:13
RUSHING--Buffalo, Leeper 20-73, Secky 8-(-24). Minnesota, Jackson 14-124, Tapeh 13-70, Barber 10-48, Johnson 7-34.
PASSING--Buffalo, Secky 30-25-0 190. Minnesota, Abdul-Khaliq 16-26-0 189.
RECEIVING--Buffalo, Forde 7-74, Bartoszek 4-40, Lindsay 3-40, Leeper 3-4. Minnesota, Utecht 4-23, Tapeh 2-51, Ellerson 2-44, Burns 2-30.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.