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It’s been a trying season for Gophers’ Pinnix

McClatchy Newspapers

The limp still is slightly noticeable when Gophers tailback Amir Pinnix walks, and he certainly doesn’t look right on the field. His positive attitude, however, remains firmly intact.

"You always have to keep an upbeat spirit," he said. "Whatever is going on, no matter what the circumstance, you still have to stay positive. That’s what I try to do."

This season has tested Pinnix’s patience and resolve. Expected to be among the top running backs in the Big Ten, Pinnix’s senior season has veered way off course.

He frustrated coaches with two costly fumbles early in the season and then suffered several nagging injuries, including turf toe on his right foot.

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As a result, his production has dropped dramatically. After rushing for 1,272 yards as a junior, Pinnix has 560 rushing yards this season, an average of 70.0 per game, which ranks eighth in the Big Ten.

He has rushed for only 174 yards and two touchdowns combined in the past five games, an average of 34.8 yards per game. He has had double-digit carries only once in that span — 10 against North Dakota State last week.

"It’s frustrating, but it’s not my plan," Pinnix said. "It’s God’s plan."

Pinnix said his turf toe injury is improving by the week, but it still affects him. He has lost some of his speed and ability to make cuts. It’s obvious he is not healthy but he refuses to sit.

"He’s still trying," freshman quarterback Adam Weber said. "Coach (Tim) Brewster has brought that to our attention many times. He says, ’Amir is playing his heart out. His body is hurting and failing him a little bit but he’s still trying to get yards for this team.’ I think that shows a lot about his character."

That is a common sentiment inside the locker room where Pinnix is one of the most popular and respected players. Pinnix’s teammates and coaches express genuine disappointment when asked about his struggles.

"It’s tough for me just seeing him go through that," senior center Tony Brinkhaus said. "It’s not easy to play running back in the Big Ten and his body has really taken a beating. But Amir has maintained a great attitude. He’s not moping around the complex. He’s doing the best job he can to lead our team."

Said Weber: "Watching how he’s handled himself, I have all the respect in the world. As a team, we hold him up very high."

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Brewster stated publicly that he thought Pinnix could rush for 1,500 yards in the new spread offense. That won’t happen, and it seems unlikely that he will reach 1,000 yards for a second consecutive season. He needs to average 110 yards over the final four games to reach that mark.

"He’s still going to give us some really good carries down the stretch," Brewster said. "I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have some big runs that help us do some good things."

Always an optimist, Pinnix said his injuries won’t affect his attitude or desire to help his team.

"Whether I’m hurt or not, I just have to go out there and play tough and have heart," he said. "Play now, hurt later. Mentally I try to prepare myself to face adversity. When you’re not at your best, you still have to go."

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