MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The football programs at Minnesota and Murray State have something in common. Both coaches say their teams have played well this season -- they just haven't had much luck in picking up a win.
But both teams are walking with a little more swagger this week as they prepare to play each other for the first time on Saturday.
The Racers (3-3, 1-2 Ohio Valley Conference) are coming off a 45-35 come-from-behind win at Southeast Missouri after two straight losses. The Golden Gophers (2-4, 1-3 Big Ten) are fresh off a 28-19 upset of Michigan State following three straight defeats.
Someone's momentum is about to hit a snag.
Big Ten standings
Conference All Games
W L PCT W L PCT
Michigan 3 0 1.000 5 1 .833
Illinois 3 1 .750 6 1 .857
Ohio St 3 1 .750 4 2 .667
Purdue 2 1 .667 4 1 .800
Northwstn 2 2 .500 4 2 .667
Iowa 2 2 .500 4 2 .667
Wisconsin 2 2 .500 4 4 .500
Mich St 1 2 .333 3 2 .600
Minnesota 1 3 .250 2 4 .333
Penn St 1 3 .250 1 4 .200
Indiana 1 3 .250 1 5 .167
Murray State at Minnesota, 1:35 p.m.
Northwestern at Purdue, 11 a.m.
Ohio State at Penn State, 11 a.m.
Michigan State at Wisconsin, 11 a.m.
Michigan at Iowa, 2:30 p.m.
"You get through a big win -- and at this point, any win is a big win after the stuff we've been through -- and you're all happy and then you look and see Minnesota beating Michigan State," said Murray State coach Joe Pannunzio.
Minnesota had been scheduled for a bye this weekend. But the Murray State game was added when the Sept. 15 matchup with Baylor was canceled after the terrorist attacks on the East Coast.
The Gophers insist they're not looking past this weekend's Division I-AA opponent and ahead to a Nov. 3 date with Ohio State.
"We're 2-4, overconfident about what?" said coach Glen Mason, whose team needs four more wins on a schedule that also includes Michigan and Wisconsin to become bowl eligible.
Besides their recent struggles, the teams have something else in common: coaches. From 1992-94, Pannunzio was a tight ends/special teams coach for Minnesota under Jim Wacker. Offensive coordinator Jeff Menage also served under Wacker coaching wide receivers and tight ends, one of whom was return specialist John Lewis. Lewis is now a receivers coach for the Racers.
Pannunzio said the biggest difference between Wacker's team and Mason's is the improved defense. This year's young, inexperienced unit gave up big plays and long yardage against Michigan State but also forced key turnovers that killed potential scoring drives.
On the other side, Mason figures the Murray State offense could give his young defense some problems. Quarterback Stewart Childress passed for 239 yards and three TDs last week. All of Stewart's touchdown passes went to Michael Slater, whose seven receptions netted him 135 yards.
Mason compared the Racers' offense with Purdue's, which beat the Gophers 35-28 in overtime this season.
"They've got a good quarterback, they've got a good scheme," Mason said. "They make good adjustments during the game and they've got good, control-type wide receivers."
But it's the Gophers receiving corps, led by Ron Johnson, that has Murray State worried. The Racers will also have to contend with a Minnesota backfield that had two 100-yard rushers -- Tellis Redmon (126) and Marion Barber III (158) -- against Michigan State.
"With our small kids that we're coming in with, it's obviously a big concern for us to stand in there and hold our own against their running game," Pannunzio said. "At the same time we have to figure out a way to run the ball and keep them honest."
It isn't the first time this season the Murray State will go up against a bigger school. The Racers were slowed by Mississippi 49-14 in the first game of the season.
Pannunzio said games against Division I-A teams like Ole Miss and Minnesota will help Murray State on its way to becoming a I-AA title contender. On the other hand, he wants something more than just a learning experience and the extra money that comes from playing a bigger school.
"We're going up there to win," Pannunzio said.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.