No other team captured the hearts of football fans everywhere last season more than Minnesota. \nThe Golden Gophers went to a bowl game for the first time in 14 years en route to an 8-4 record that included a stunning 24-23 triumph at Penn State.\nAfter last season's successes, with the Gophers climbing to No. 12 in the polls, it is back to square one for coach Glen Mason and Minnesota.\nWith key players gone from last year's squad, there are questions whether the Gophers can sustain their success. Mason said he is confident he has recruited enough talent to fill the holes.\n"Last year, if you remember, I said that we would be very much improved, and that in 1999 the Minnesota Golden Gophers would go from a losing program to a winning program," Mason said. "I say that because I think this year, once again, we should be improved."\nA place where Minnesota doesn't need help is at defensive end. All-America candidate Karon Riley returns for his senior season after leading the Big Ten in sacks a year ago with 16.\nRiley, who spent his first two years of college at Southern Methodist University, has explosive speed coming off of the corner. At 6-4 and 248 pounds, he is a tremendous all-around athlete who can alter an offense's game plan.\nRiley said the success he and the Gophers had last season is driving them to improve themselves.\n"It's a good feeling to be able to go around town saying you are a Minnesota Golden Gopher," Riley. "We don't want that feeling to go away any time soon. We'll continue to work hard to put ourselves in a position to repeat that feeling."\nSenior linebacker Sean Hoffman will anchor the rest of the defensive unit. Last season, Hoffman was third on the team with 80 tackles. He was awarded All-Big Ten honorable mention.\nWhile Riley and Hoffman will lead the defense, the offense will be led by All-American center Ben Hamilton. Beyond Hamilton, there are a number of holes at the skill positions. Namely, the quarterback and running back positions will be filled with inexperienced players.\nRedshirt freshman quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq is expected to be Minnesota's signal-caller this season. Abdul-Khaliq was impressive in the Spring Game on April 19, completing 13 of 20 passes for 184 yards.\nFor the Gophers, the main goal in 2000 will be much different from last season's. Now that they have proven they can be a winning team, they will try to prove they are consistent winners.\n"It's one thing to go from a loser to a winner in a season," Mason said. "We've got to be consistent. I think a considerable goal is to have some consistency of being able to win in this conference"
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