Tuesday, September 30, 2008

You've Got Questions? Good Because We've Got...

...well, actually more questions. Sure, we've got the run of the mill stuff like:
Why are all political campaign ads negative?
Why didn't I read the reviews about the movie "Eagle Eye" before I went to see it? (For the record, my thought process went like this: "I like the Transformers kid, Michelle whatshername is hot, and Billy Bob Thornton is Billy Bob Thornton. What could go wrong?" Well a lot, that's what. A lot. Don't make the same mistake I did).
How much do you love that there's no New York baseball teams in the playoffs this year?
How nervous are you for the Twins game tonight with Chicago's best starter on the mound (Danks) and one of the Twinkies worst (Blackburn)? And did I mention the wind is blowing out?

Of course we also have much more pertinent questions about the Big 10 as we head into October...

Is (Are? Is? Grammar? Somebody?) Penn State REALLY better than Ohio State?
Look, I get it: everybody's very bored with THE Ohio State University. They've dominated the Big 10 the past two years yet have been crushed in two straight national title games, and then got flat out embarrassed by USC. Everybody's sick and tired of the Scarlet and Grey and are just DYING to crown a new king of the Big Ten. And since Ohio State lost to USC who lost to Oregon State who lost to Penn State well hey that makes Penn State the new champs!

As Lee Corso would say (among the many incoherent things he yells) "not so fast my friends!" Hey I watched the Nittany Lions against Illinois, and they looked great. Daryll Clark really is the guy they've been missing at QB since Michael Robinson graduated, they've got a stable of good backs, Derrick Williams is finally fulfilling his potential, and the D is formidable. So far they look the part of a top 10 team, and that is GREAT for the conference. But how quickly we forget, or want to forget, that Ohio State is still loaded. They're more dangerous offensively now that the usually conservative Jim Tressell has turned his offense over to super frosh Terelle Pryor, Beanie Wells (when healthy) is still the best back in the conference, their receivers are NFL caliber, the line is improving and their defense? Still one of the nation's best. Yep, they laid a gigantic egg in the Coliseum against USC two weeks ago, but they have flat dominated the conference the last three years with a 22-2 record. I know people want to bury the Buckeyes, but they're far from dead.

Who had a worse weekend: the Badgers or Packers?
Ahhhh yeah sure it's not particularly classy to revel in the ills of others, but sometimes it feels good when the Gophs' neighboring state of cheese has some down times for a change. Bucky Badger and the Wisconsin Winnebego ran into a real defense for the first time, and the results weren't pretty. Michigan outrushed them 172-155, and while QB Allen Everidge threw for 226 yards, he got picked twice and completed just 36% of his passes. Not exactly a recipe for success. But hey, on the bright side they play the next two weeks at home at Camp Randall in prime time. What's that? They play Ohio State and Penn State in those games? Um sorry Badger fans. But did I mention Aaron Rodgers shoulder isn't dislocated?

Is Michigan for real?
Up until halftime of the Badger game, the Wolverines were AWFUL for their first five games! Come to think of it, while this game had an exciting conclusion, the offenses set back the college game at least 50 years. But hey, Michigan pulled it together for a huge comeback in the Big House, and now we're all wondering which team we'll see the rest of the year. While the offense was still, um "lacking" (and that's being kind. Despite the comeback, they still finished with only 268 yards, with just 96 of those through the air on just 3.1 yards per pass. Ouch) a win over Wisconsin is still a big accomplishment, and if Michigan's defense can give the kind of effort they did in the second half, they could go bowling this year after all.

Is Iowa really this bad?
We can only hope so. WHO HATES IOWA?

Do you know who's third in the Big 10 in points per game and passing yards?
Would you believe it's your very own Golden Gophers? The Gophs are averaging 33.2 points and 230.8 passing yards per game. Didn't it take Minnesota an entire month to pass for that many yards under Glen Mason?

Introducing Jeff Kilpatrick & a slightly new direction

I love Gopher football, and I love this blog because it gives me an excuse to care about and follow Gopher football more closely than might otherwise seem reasonable. The bottom line is that I've always wanted to make this blog a place that Gopher football fans can come and hopefully find a voice, or at least an opinion, on Gopher football that is from a fan's perspective. A fan that truly cares about the program and it's success.

But I also want this blog to be informational about it's opinions, and I realize that there is a bigger world out there. I also realize that as much time as I spend trying to keep up on Gopher related content and commenting on it, I don't spend enough time looking at the Big10 conference or college football as a whole. And I admit that is a problem.

In that vein, I have asked a close, personal friend of mine (insert Sid Hartman joke here) to join me in writing this blog.

Jeff Kilpatrick and I have been friends since we were neighbors at Covenant Bible College in Strathmore, Alberta in the fall of 1996. Jeff and I used to write together on another blog called Midwest Sports Rubes, which I left last year in order to focus my blogging efforts on Gopher Football. In the interim Jeff turned Midwest Sports Rubes into Metric Musings.

Jeff grew up in the shadow of one of the greatest cities in the world, Vancouver, British Columbia, and despite growing up in hockey country, he has lived a good portion of the past decade right here in the Midwest. As friends I have always been the homer, keeping a very close eye on local sports teams, and while he is also a big fan of all things Minnesota, he has always been the voice of reason, keeping a closer eye on the national landscape than I.

Jeff also grew up as a Michigan Wolverines fan, but has since buried his allegiance to Ann Arbor, and fully committed his college fandom to the University of Minnesota.

For all of these reasons, Jeff is the perfect person to join the Gopher Football Blog. Jeff will focus most of his efforts on the Big10 as a whole, a bit on the national college football landscape, and then figure out how all of this pertains to the Gophers.

Additionally, something that I am REALLY excited about, is that we are going to be starting a podcast! Jeff is vocationally trained in radio, and has done a lot of work in recent years working in sports information for small colleges, another reason that Jeff is the perfect reason to join the blog.

Please join me in welcoming Jeff to the fold, and expect his first post on the Big10 landscape later today.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fuller on Weber to Decker

Marcus Fuller does a fantastic job of covering the Gophers for the Pioneer Press. In his blog today, Fuller had a snippet that I wanted to share:
"It was bound to happen when an opponent was able to shutdown Weber's favorite target and the Big Ten's leading receiver Eric Decker, who finished with five catches for 52 yards. He had three catches for 34 yards at halftime. With Decker heavily covered, freshman tailback DeLeon Eskridge led the team with eight catches for 55 yards. I was still surprised that senior tight end Jack Simmons didn't have more of an impact though. Simmons, who was the victim of a bad fumble call on a 12-yard catch in the second quarter, finished with three catches for 36 yards."
I was going to write on this later tonight, but as I had mentioned on Friday, I was concerned about what was going to happen when somebody finally figured out how to slow down Weber to Decker. Well, we saw what happened on Saturday, and it should still be a big concern.

Seriously, 5 games into the season, and where has Jack Simmons been? It had to happen eventually, someone was going to supplant Duane Bennett as the second leading receiver on the team, and Simmons finally did it on Saturday. Bennett is now 3rd on the team receiving yards and he hasn't played in the last 3 full games.

For the season, Simmons has 10 catches for 134 yards and 1 touchdown.

An objective look at OSU

I took a couple of days to let the Gopher game against the Buckeyes settle in before posting a response.

For the most part on Saturday I was pretty disappointed with the Gophers performance. It's clear that a lot of questions still remain about this football team. But I did have to take a step back and realize a couple of things...

1. Ohio State is still the class of the Big10... Until someone proves otherwise (Penn State is doing their best to do so), OSU is still the best team in the Big10. A perennial national championship contender, conference championship contender, and annually one of the best defenses in all of college football. Jim Tressel is still one of the best coaches in the country and he does not lose games to lesser competition... he just doesn't. They played in the national championship game just 9 months ago, and they are not NEARLY as bad as they looked against USC. Ohio State was favored by as much as 19 points in this game for a reason.

2. The Gophers were 1-11 last year... And 0-8 in the Big10. This was an absolutely horrible football team that finished a 1-11 season just 10 months ago. The Gophers are one of the youngest football teams in college football and by absolutely any measure imaginable they are a better football team than they were last year. The fact of the matter is that Coach Brewster was right, it was incredibly "optimistic" to think that the Gophers matched up well with an experienced Ohio State team. That is not to say that we had zero chance of winning this game, but it is to say that, for the Gophers to win, they needed to play flawlessly.

Once I reminded myself of those two facts, I think there are some good things to take away from this game. We all know what the good things were: the team never gave up, Weber didn't let the turnover ruin his day, the defense was much better than last year... so let's move on.

When it comes to things like this, I tend to have really high expectations, and focus on the things that we need to do better instead of what went well. We lost the game, what can we learn from this to win next time?

We know that coming into this game the Gophs had done a great job of getting the ball from their opponents, and when they forced the fumble from Beanie Wells it looked like the trend was continuing. But we couldn't capitalize. Additionally, we gave up the ball 3 times (even though the Jack Simmons fumble was VERY questionable). Ouch!

Weber's interception was his fault. He was throwing to Decker who was at least double covered, and he threw it very short. This was a huge momentum killer.

In order for a team that is over-matched from a talent standpoint to win a game like this, we had to be opportunisitc and get touchdowns off of turnovers. We just couldn't do that against a very good Ohio State defense.

One of the biggest concerns that I have after this game is the rushing game, and the run stopping game. We gave up 279 yards on the ground, and only were able to muster 81 of our own. A lot of this probably had to do with the fact that we were playing from behind, and Ohio State was playing with a lead, all day long. Overall we just couldn't get much going on offense, and even against a defense as good as Ohio State, this has to be a concern.

My conclusion is that Ohio State was supposed to win this game, and they came out and did what they had to to win. I thought that Ohio State controlled every facet of the game and that the Gophers didn't quite have the horses to make the adjustments neccesary to hang with the Buckeyes.

I think that games like this will look different in the future, but for now, the Gophers are in a good position heading into the rest of the Big10 schedule.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Another interesting piece...

Another interesting piece surrounding the Gopher/OSU tilt this weekend from another business publication, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

The article is very short, but here are a couple of snippets.

"The University of Minnesota athletics department has a budget of $69.2 million this year, while Ohio State has a budget of $115.4 million...

Ohio State’s football team alone generates more than $60 million in annual revenue — almost as much as all 25 Gophers sports teams combined."


I just heard on the radio this morning that Reusse is going to be in Columbus this weekend covering the Gopher game at Ohio State.

Prediction: Reusse figures out a way to write a "see I told you so" type of article for Sunday's paper.


I have been struggling all week trying to decide how optimistic to allow myself to be for this game against Ohio State. (By the way, I REFUSE to say "the" in front of their name.) There are several out there who are VERY optimistic, thinking that the Gophers not only can, but will win this game.

I've avoided (you may have noticed) making a prediction for the very reason that I can't make up my mind how optimistic to be. There are a lot of things that we know about the Gophers after the non-conference schedule, most notably that the Gophers are better than they were last year... that wasn't tough to achieve.

I still tend to believe that there are more questions at this point than answers, and the Big10 schedule is going to help to answer them.

Going into the Bowling Green game I said that I would be happy if the Gophers could hang with Bowling Green throughout the game, but I didn't expect a win... which I was happy to be wrong about.

I am going to approach this game with the same kind of healthy skepticism that I felt about Bowling Green, of course hoping to be proven wrong again.

Matching up... I was glad to see Coach Brewster, in his weekly press conference on Tuesday say that he thought it was "optimistic" to say that the Gophers match up well with OSU. If the Gophers are to win this game they are going to have to have to play over their heads and beat OSU at every facet of the game. I believe if they play against OSU the way they did against Florida Atlantic this will be a very close game.

Defense... Obviously big improvements from last year. To go from giving up 463 yards passing from Rusty Smith of FAU last year to 153 yards passing this year is a huge improvement. The OSU offense is a question mark, in my mind. We know they have some big time players, and with Beanie Wells playing, they will be tough running the ball.

With Terelle Pryor under center the Gophers are going to have to defend against the kind of QB that they haven't seen this year. Pryor is a guy who can create with his legs, he is a very accurate passer, and he is a threat to make a big play happen at any moment. If the pocket collapses, he'll run outside of it, if the passing lanes aren't there, he'll run. He presents the Gophers with questions that they haven't had to answer against Ohio State teams in the past.

Having said that, he's also young, and likely to make some mistakes. The key for our defense is going to be to get to Pryor early and often. Hit him hard, put him on his back, take away his confidence.

So here are the questions: Can our defense stop a big time running game? Can our DB's continue to break up passes and hit hard against big time WR's? Where has the pass rush been? Are we going to figure out a way to have a pass rush at some point this season?

Offense... Despite what USC was able to do to Ohio State a couple of weeks ago, the Buckeyes have one of the best defenses in the country. They are big, fast and they have a lot of experience. They probably also have a bit of a chip on their shoulder since everyone is questioning them now.

Maybe I'm the only person in Minnesota who feels this way, but I still have some questions about this offense. We have not played Big10 competition yet, and the competition that we have played has not been able to take Decker out of our offense.

Everytime that we have needed a big play, it's Weber to Decker. And I have no problem with that, but if this is supposed to be the spread offense, the ball needs to be distributed a lot more. I'm concerned about what happens when a team like Ohio State puts two defensive backs (two Big10 defensive backs, not two Sun Belt DB's) on Decker, and suddenly he's not open on every play? Will Weber try to force the ball to him anyway, like he did in the end zone when FAU picked him off? Or will he try to go to someone else? And who exactly IS that someone else? As pointed out earlier this week, despite having not played since the Bowling Green game, Duane Bennett is still the second leading receiver on this football team.

Those are the big questions for me. Additionally, does Weber have enough options to throw to if the running game gets shut down? Is the running game real? Can an inexperienced and banged up offensive line hold their own against Big10 competition?

In closing... You may have noticed, I have a lot of anxiety about this game and about the Big10 schedule. The schedule sets up really well for the Gophers to have a nice Big10 season with a lot of winable games at home. 6 wins should be our lowest expectation at this point, and I don't think that even 8 wins is out of the question.

I can't believe how much better we've been to this point than last year, but the competition takes a humongous jump this week and I am concerned that some of the weak spots that we've been able to overcome against weaker competition will become glaringly obvious against conference opponents who will have better coaching and players to exploit them.

So I'll stick with my healthy skepticism looking ahead to tomorrow... if the Gophers can play tough on the road in a very difficult test in a tough environment, and keep this game close, I'll feel a lot better about answering some of those questions.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Politics meet Gopher Football

There is a very interesting article today in the Wall Street Journal online about political ads on regional sports networks, with a slight nod toward this Saturday's Gopher game at Ohio State.

Here is the gist:

"In Saturday's football matchup between the University of Minnesota and Ohio State, two other tough rivals are set to face each other: John McCain and Barack Obama.

The Gopher-Buckeye showdown is airing on Big Ten Network, where the two candidates are regular advertisers. With a main footprint that reaches seven political battleground states, Big Ten is one of several regional sports networks that have been attracting more political ads as the campaigns jockey to reach swing voters."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Superb... Just superb...

USC and even Troy had the benefit of facing the Buckeyes without Heisman Trophy hopeful Beanie Wells.

But the Gophers? No such luck.
"Ohio State starting running back Chris "Beanie" Wells will return from injury Saturday against Minnesota barring any setbacks this week in practice, Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said Tuesday. Wells participated fully in Monday's nearly two-hour practice and no longer is experiencing the lingering soreness in his right big toe, which kept him off the field in wins over Ohio and Troy and a 35-3 loss to top-ranked USC."

Coach Brewster's Weekly Coaches Conference Call

In Coach Brewster's weekly conference call a lot of emphasis is put on the defense. No surprises there. You can hear Coach Brewster talk about Alignment, Assignment & Tackle several times. It's clear that he gives Ted Roof a lot of credit for the defensive improvement this season. Talent is a big part of the game, obviously, but making sure that those players area aligned correctly and in the right places at the right time falls on the defensive coordinator and his preparation of his squad.

Listen to it here:

Trouble in the trenches

(My apologies for the cliched title, but I couldn't resist.)

Offensive Line... Today in the PP, Marcus Fuller talks about the woes of the Gophers offensive line. Perhaps the most inexperienced unit on the entire team coming into the season, the O-line has suffered several injuries.

The most noticeable names have been junior center Jeff Tow-Arnett, and sophomore tackle Dom Alford. Tow-Arnett seems to be on his way back to good health and playing time as he played a good chunk of Saturday's game against FAU.

The inexperience of the o-line was one of the biggest question marks coming into the season, along with questions about the defense as a whole. With some of the questions regarding the defenses capabilities being answered in the first 4 games, the questions still remain on the o-line.

The group has seemed to hold up fairly well through the first 4 games, but the competition jumps several notches this week as the team travels to Columbus. The Buckeyes defense has the speed, size and experience to take full advantage of offensive line mistakes, so this has to be a major concern for the Gophers. Running the ball this weekend is likely to be difficult, so Coach Dunbar is going to have to find creative ways to move the ball around.

RB's getting some catches... Luckily DeLeon Eskridge started to look like he might be able to add something to the passing attack out of the backfield as he caught 6 passes last week, giving Weber another option to throw to. Shady Salamon has just one catch on the season.

Speaking of throwing options... We all know that Decker is Weber's favorite target, and rightfully so, but who is number 2? Duanne Bennet has missed 2 complete games of the Gophers 4 total games... and yet, besides Decker, he has more receptions and more recieving yards than any other Gopher. Considering the competition that we have played, this should be a huge concern.

Has anyone else been slightly concerned with the lack of throws to Jack Simmons? Simmons has only 7 receptions on the season for 98 yards and 1 touchdown. That one touchdown, the 53 yarder vs. Northern Illinois in the season opener, accounts for more than half of Simmons' total production.

Recruiting... Perhaps the Gophers aren't concerned about how few times they have gotten Simmons involved in the offense, but I can gaurentee you there is one individual in Minneapolis who has noticed and who DOES care... Ra'Shede Hageman. Hageman wants to play for a program that is going to feature him as a pass catching TE. If Simmons doesn't start getting some love in this offense we might be watching another Minnesota golden boy leaving the state.

Hageman was at Saturday's game vs. FAU, however this was not his official campus visit. His official campus visit was rescheduled for later in the season so that he can interact with more recruits. Several Gopher recruits were not able to make the trip this week due to the effects of the hurricanes.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Random Links & Thoughts

-Has anyone else noticed... With the Twins having a pretty good summer, Reusse didn't have very much negativity to throw around, so I'm sure he was licking his chops coming into the Gophers season. But Pat has been noticably quiet about the Gophers in the last few weeks. Except for an article 7 days ago where Pat mentioned Moses Alipate, by my count Reusse hasn't even MENTIONED the Gopher football team since August 31st.

I'd like to send out a THANK YOU to the Gopher football team on behalf of all of Gopher Nation for quieting Pat down for awhile.

-National mention... ESPN Big10 blogger, Adam Rittenburg, called the Gophers the Big10's biggest surprise so far this season in one of his 20 or so blog posts yesterday. Clearly the results have been much higher than what people expected. It's safe to say that the national media didn't expect much out of the Gophers, and I don't know anyone (myself included) who expected 4-0 going into Big10 play.

-Feels like the past?... Kent Youngblood from the Strib:
"...one fellow in the press box commented on how much this felt like past seasons, when the Gophers would cruise through a relatively soft nonconference schedule and you still wouldn’t know what kind of team you had."
I think that probably sums up a lot of what is going through the heads of Gopher fans right now. 4-0 feels good, and a bit of a surprise, but what do we really have here? Having said that, I think it's safe to say that we don't know much about what we have with any of the teams in the Big10. Outside of Michigan losing to Notre Dame, Ohio State losing to USC and Wisconsin beating Fresno State, Big10 teams haven't played the toughest non-conference schedules.

-And just for fun... the Gopher Football Blog brings to you... the Dramatic Chipmunk.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


How 'bout that Gopher fans? 4-0!!!

After the season we had last year did you think we'd be at this point after 4 games? Look, we all get it, two MAC teams, a Sun Belt team and one FCS team. These aren't elite or big time programs. But this team won ONE game last year... ONE!!! These were 4 teams that the Gophers were supposed to beat, and they did, and that is a big step for this program after last year.

Defense wins...
The saying goes that defense wins championships, but I think I speak for all of Gopher Nation when I say that we are pretty happy at this point to have our defense helping us just win games. Last season, and for most of the past two decades, the Gopher offense has constantly had to make up for the defensive deficiences by having to score early and often. But this season's defense has shown, at the very least, an ability to stop someone. It's been awhile since we've felt that way.

Junior, Junior, Sophomore, Junior.
Those are the eligibility years of the four Gophers who intercepted Rusty Smith on Saturday. Lee Campbell, Traye Simmons, Kyle Theret, Simoni Lawrence. The defense is playing so much better than last years defensive squad, it's almost hard to believe it's the same team. And in many ways, it isn't. Different players, different coordinator, and clearly different results. And the players that are making an impact are still young. I know we're only 1/3 through this regular season... but this defense has a chance to be really special next year.

4-0... in the words of Borat... THAT'S NICE!!!

From section 207...

(Look Adryn, I am blogging... 3 seats down from you.)

Live from the Metrodome and the Gophs (dare I say it?...)look good.

4 INT's so far, one returned for a TD. The offense has moved the ball pretty well. The only hiccups so far have been a missed PAT by Monroe and an INT thrown in the endzone by Weber (forcing a ball in TRIPLE coverage to Decker).

37-3 Gophs lead with 5:57 left in the game.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How important is this game?

Coming into the season I predicted 5 wins for my beloved Gophs. That number assumed a loss at Bowling Green, so the Gophs are already proving me wrong... which is fantastic, even though I don't like being wrong (ask my wife!).

With a 3-0 start, an impressive performance against Bowling Green, a team with increased expectations and a final non-conference tilt at home this weekend, the B word has creeped into the collective subconscious of Gopher Nation. And if the B word (I'm going to avoid actually typing the word, so as not to jinx it... sort of like not talking to your pitcher in the middle of a no-hitter) is going to continue to be a possibility, then Saturday's game against Florida Atlantic is a biggie.

What do we know about FAU? Well, we know that FAU beat us in Miami last year, we know that Rusty Smith has the ability to throw all over the field on us (last year Smith completed 27 passes for a staggering 463 yards, over 17 yards per reception and 5 touchdowns through the air), we know that FAU has lost big to Texas, was shut out by Michigan State (in a downpour) and that the Owls passing game has been decent so far this year, but did not look good against the Spartans (again, in a downpour).

And what do we know about our Gophers? We know that Coach Brewster is approaching this game with extreme caution (or hyperbole, it's hard to tell which), that Gopher players are not going to let the Owls sneak up on them, that coming off of a mediocre performance against Northern Illinois the Gophers responded with a killer instinct against Bowling Green, that the Gophers are light years ahead of where they were as a team when they faced FAU last year, and that finishing the non-conference schedule with 4 wins would be absolutely huge for this program.

Conclusion? As of nowMinnesota is favored by anywhere from 6.5 to 7.5 points, depending on what site you look at, based on home field advantage and being a Big10 school playing a Sun Belt school. There are still questions about how the Gophers can perform against more elite talent, and the Owls should be a good step up in talent from the competition we have played so far, and thus a good litmus test going into the Big10 season.

Prediction? I predict the Gophers rebound well after a poor performance against Montana State last week and play a much more crisp game with less mistakes. FAU will still move the ball, but the Gophers will do plenty of bending, but won't completely break.

Gophers win 45 - 31.

I will be out of town for work for the rest of the week, not getting back into MSP until late evening on Friday night, so this may be my last post before the game. With that in mind...


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I've calmed down

Okay, I've calmed down a bit since Saturday night. But for the record, the Vikings game on Sunday didn't help. Nor did losing in all three of my fantasy football leagues this week. And Deshean Jackson deciding to celebrate early (video below)? Yeah, that little scene all by itself cost me one of my games...

But I digress.

One of the things that I've really respected about Coach Brewster this year is his attitude toward winning. Last year, when the team couldn't buy a win, Brew was very optimistic every week, and kept that attitude all season. Now that the team has won some games, his attitude is still optimistic, but he seems to have taken on more of a realistic view of the team. He doesn't seem to be the blind optimist that he sometimes came off as last year.

"I didn't have my guys as prepared today as they needed to be... We're pleased to be a 3-0 team. Obviously there is some disappointment there. I'm not sure we improved the way I wanted us to improve.''

In addition, Adam Weber has grown up plenty. Despite Brewster taking the blame,even with the win, Weber put the blame for the teams poor performance on the players.

"We'll come out of this game knowing we let ourselves and our fans down today a little bit."

We're 3-0. We, so far, are beating the teams that we are supposed to beat. It hasn't been pretty, but we've figured out a way to win. And, perhaps best of all, the coach and the team are not satisfied.

No matter what happens the rest of the season, this football team is light years ahead of where it was last year.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

No questions answered

After the Gophers beat Northern Illinois is week 1, I started my blog post titled "Underwhelming" this way...

"Well hey, a W is a W, right?"

Probably a good way to follow-up the win over Montana State today as well.

If you were looking for improvement from last week (like everyone was), for some additional questions to get answered about the Gophers (which were many), and for a decisive win against an over-matched opponent (ME!!!)... you're still looking.

To me the difference in this game was simple: FBS vs. FCS. The Gophers have more talent, more size and more speed than Montana State does. And the Gophers should win this game. But they certainly didn't dominate the Bobcats... and I'd have a tough time saying that they even outplayed them for most of the day.

So we know the number that matters, and that's the final score, but let's look at the numbers inside the game that speak to how closely the Bobcats played us in this game.

First Downs:
Gophers: 12
Bobcats: 21

Total Yards
Gophers: 352
Bobcats: 356

Passing Yards
Gophers: 201
Bobcats: 218

Rushing Yards:
Gophers: 151
Bobcats: 138

Time of Possession:
Gophers: 28:59
Bobcats: 31:01

The Gopher offense started out incredibly sluggish today, and wasn't able to muster a first down until there was 1:30 left in the first quarter.

It was good to see Adam Weber protect the ball again today, but I really felt like he took a step back in this game. 15/24 for 201 yards and 1 touchdown. After last week against Bowling Green it really seemed like Weber had found his accuracy, but he was a bit off this week.

The biggest concern for me regarding Weber is that he is still constantly telegraphing his throws. A play that really illustrated this point was about midway through the first quarter. It was 3rd & 7, Weber took the snap from center and completed a 5 yard pass into coverage to Ben Kuznia. The fact that this was thrown to a reciever 2 yards shy of the first down was concerning. But what was actually maddening is the fact that Jack Simmons was WIDE open over the middle... and was about 3 yards past the first down marker. Not only did Weber not throw to Simmons, he never even looked at him.

Folks, Florida Atlantic, a team that beat the Gophers last year, comes to town next week. This will be a tough game. We play at Ohio State in two weeks. I don't have to tell you how tough this game will be. The way the Gophers played today will NOT cut it during the Big10 season. Playing a game like this won't even beat Northwestern and Indiana. Those are Big10 teams with Big10 talent and they know how to take advantage of the kind of game the Gophers played today.

I am VERY happy that the Gophers got the win today, and it's absolutely huge for this young team to be 3-0 right now. But to play a game like this team played today, at home, 3 games into the season against incredibly over-matched talent is not a good sign. We should have shredded this team.

Maybe my expectations are too high... but I hope the team's expectations are higher than what they produced today.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Is it too early for this?

I realize we play Montana State this week, and I realize November is a long way off...

But really, is it ever a bad time for this?

Montana State

According to Montana State's website, this is only the second time in the school's history that they have played a Big10 school. The first was against Purdue in 1927, a game which Purdue won 38-7.

I have waded through some other Montana State information so that you don't have to. Here are some fun facts:

-Montana State got rolled by Kansas State in Manhattan, KS last week 69-10, while managing only 191 total yards
-In week 1 they beat something called Adams State 59-3, a game in which the Bobcats rushed for 258 yards, which was 166 yards more than Adams State's total offensive production
-The Bobcats have enjoyed 7 strait winning seasons
-MSU has sold out it's season tickets for 3 strait seasons
-MSU has an all-time record of 3-0 against University of Minnesota Duluth, and a 0-0-1 all-time record against St. Mary's of Winona, the only other schools from Gold Country that the Bobcats have ever played.
-Senior running back Demetrius Crawford appears to be the Bobcats main offensive weapon. He has rushed for 190 yards on 37 carries in their two games so far, for one touchdown.

Unfortunately this is really about all I could find. There is no point spread for the game since MSU is not part of the FBS portion of NCAA football.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tough loss

Looks like it's been confirmed that Duanne Bennett is out for the season.

I'm curious what people's thoughts are on this? As I've mentioned before, I think he biggest impact of losing Bennett is as a pass catching back.

I'm curious how this will affect game plans... will Shady emerge as a tough runner who can rack up 80-100 yards and a TD/game? Can Shady also emerge as a throwing option? Will this mean Jay Thomas will get more reps?

A quick scan

-The lawyer guys over at The Rivalry, Esq. gave some props to the Gophers this week in their Big10 wrap-up, and then ended it with this tidbit... which I think we can all agree with:
"Technically this may not be a compliment, but Tim Brewster has already tripled his number of wins as head coach of the Gophers. Why stop there?"
-TNABACB gives Adam Weber one of their Three Stars for Monday, based on Adam Weber being named as one of three Big10 Offensive Players of the Week.

-If you aren't already reading Down with Goldy everyday, or at least every time he writes a new post, you are missing out. The guy is just plain funny... and tends to write when he's drinking... which, I think we can all agree, makes for good times.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Recruiting having an immediate impact

Last week Sid mentioned that Brewster's first full recruiting class didn't have a big impact on the win over NIU. A sentiment that I disputed, but only slightly.

But there is no disputing the impact that this recruiting class had on the win over Bowling Green on Saturday. Check these numbers out (courtesy of Gophersports.com):

Tramaine Brock - 3 solo tackles, 5 assists & 1 interception. His 8 total tackles led the team.
Simoni Lawrence - 3 solo tackles, 4 assists & was a part of the Gophers only sack of the night.
Traye Simmons - 2 solo tackles, 5 assists.
4 Gopher players had a part in at least 7 tackles, and 3 of them were the above recruits.
Troy Stoudermire - 2 returns for 73 yards.
Shady Salamon - 12 rushes for 64 yards (5.3 yds/carry), and 1 touchdown.

These players are adding not only to the depth of this team, but are making an impact on the field right away. The three making the greatest impact on the defense, Brock, Lawrence and Simmons, are all JUCO transfers who are Juniors according to eligibility. While recruiting JUCO players who have only 2 or 3 years of eligibility left isn't the ideal recruiting situation, if players like these can make an immediate impact on the team, I'm all for it.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Bennett having MRI

From the Gopher Sports Blog over at the Pioneer Press:

Gophers sophomore tailback Duane Bennett had a magnetic resonance imaging exam done Sunday morning on his left knee, which was injured after being hit by linebacker John Haneline on a 1-yard loss on a screen pass with 7:33 left in the third quarter of Saturday's 42-17 win at Bowling Green.

This would be a tough loss for the Gophers for many reasons, but primarily, in my opinion, the loss of Bennett as a receiver out of the backfield, a threat that really emerged during Saturday's win over Bowling Green, would be significant.

As an offense, Dunbar seems to be testing several options for moving the ball, and the more options that Weber has to throw to, pitch to, hand-off to, the better. I still have some trouble buying into the idea of Bennett as an every down back, mostly due to his size, but as part of a spread offense that does (hopefully, in the interest of ball control) a lot of short passing, I think that Bennett is an important option for Weber. In addition, Dunbar is clearly starting to work in Shady Salamon as a weapon, freeing up Bennett's athleticism as a threat in ways other than just rushing.

A couple of times last night the Gophers seemed to run what almost seemed to be screen options (as pointed out while watching the game with Gopher Nation from The Daily Gopher), where it looked as if Weber had the option to throw the screen to one of two possible options, one on either side of the field. Having Bennett available will be paramount if running this type of play is part of the strategy to spread the field.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Happy to be wrong

Well, I predicted a loss in this game, more than once, and I could NOT be more happy to have been wrong about this game! With as young as this team is, and obviously after last season, every win we can get is huge.

One of the things that I've been most impressed with about Brewster is the second half adjustments that have been made while the Gophers have been under his watch. Tonight was not only not an exception, it was incredible. Talk about a tale of two halves!

The Gophers looked really good again tonight on their opening drive, but then seemed to sputter a bit through the rest of the first half. Looks like Dunbar is doing a really nice job of scripting out that first drive?

How about the defense actually helping to keep us in the game?!?! They gave up a lot of yards in this game (390 total, 253 passing, 137 rushing), especially in the first half, but they came up with some big plays when they needed them, found a way to put some pressure on Sheehan in the second half, did a great job getting after the ball, and I could be wrong... but I don't remember seeing the Gophers give up a 3rd & long all night.

How about that interception by Trumaine Brock? My goodness! I had the pleasure tonight of watching the game with two fellow bloggers, one of which was one of the guys over at The Daily Gopher (who by the way brought his laptop to Buffalo Wild Wings so that he could be involved in their live chat during the game... how's THAT for dedication?), and as Sheehan's pass was in the air he said "watch, he'll be wide open." A statement which I wholeheartedly agreed with... which was followed immediately by the loudest cheering of the evening!

What a great performance by Weber! Exactly the kind of performances he's going to need to have against Big10 competition. He was in control and efficient all night long. 21/25, 257 yards, 3 TD's through the air, 1 on the ground, and most importantly, no turnovers! I was really impressed with his performance tonight. I thought that Weber showed great maturity with a willingness to take the sack a few times. I did think that he threw a few ill-advised passes, but he also threaded the needle nicely a few times, most notably on the touchdown pass to Decker in the 4th quarter.

This just in: Eric Decker is legit.

Very good to see Shady Salamon get some runs tonight. A pretty impressive performance for the young guy from Cretin. Looks like he's got a shot at a very productivce career as a Gopher.

Nice win Gopher Nation, nice win!

2-0 BABY!!!

Friday, September 5, 2008

ESPN's Bottom 10 and a quick preview of BG...

*Good news Gopher Fans! The Gophers have left the ranks of ESPN's Bottom 10.

A fixture on the list last year, as well part of the preseason Bottom 10, the Gophers got themselves off the schnide with a win over NIU, and brought themselves off of the list. Not only did the Gophers not make the Bottom 10, they didn't even show up in the Waiting List. NIU, coincidentally, DID make the Waiting List.

*Looks like the Gophers are slight underdogs this weekend to Bowling Green, clearly no surprise. I've seen a couple of different point spreads, anywhere from 4 to 5.5.

Bowling Green upset then No. 25 Pittsburgh last weekend, but make no mistake about this game... Pitt gave it away. Pitt had 4 turnovers, and Bowling Green was incredibly efficient in taking advantage of those turnovers. Bowling Green's offensive numbers were not impressive: 254 total yards and just 64 of those on the ground.

Let's not forget, however, that Bowling Green QB Tyler Sheehan absolutely torched the Gopher secondary in the opener last season for 388 yards through the air. And Bowling Green still had over 100 yards on the ground last year. Based on how our secondary fared last week against NIU, I would fully expect the Falcons to come out throwing again. Bowling Green will probably carry the strategy that they used on offense against Pitts into the game with Minnesota by showin multiple formations with 2 or 3 QB's under center in different situations.

Defensively it appears, based on last week's win over Pitt, that BG will try to get turnovers, and will be tough against the run. It looks as though they may be suseptible to the pass and they did give up just shy of 400 yards, including 263 through the air. It's tough to say how realistic all of this is because Pitt played a poor game, but they are expected to have a decent squad this year.

As with last year's game this looks to likely be a high scoring afair where the defenses will struggle to make stops.

I will avoid making a prediction on the score here, but I did predict before the season that the Gophers would have a tough time winning this game. I don't neccesarily see that changing, but if the Gophs can cut down on some of the mistakes from last week, especially in the defensive backfield, we should be able to run with BG.

If the Gophers are able to do that I think that we'll learn a lot about their potential this season.

With that said...


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Burned Baby, Burned

I just typed "Ryan Collado" into Google and searched images, and this was the very first result...

No joke.

Apparently Google doesn't have a very high impression of Collado right now.

I was looking at some stats from Saturday's win over NIU when I realized that the two long touchdown catches that Collado gave up amounted to 144 total yards. This is just under 45% of the total passing yards given up by the Gopher defense.


I'm certainly not blaming Burnt Toast, er, I mean, Collado for the game being as close as it is. Football games are never about one play. Or in this case two plays. (Two really, really big plays that both went for touchdowns.) But that is a big number to be sure.

Based on how good of a job the Gophers did allowing Tyler Harnish to throw to wide open recievers on 3rd & long, it's safe to say that even if Collado had broken up both (or even one would have been okay) of those passes, NIU might have found a way to continue to put up big passing numbers.

Word today is that Brewster and Roof are talking about giving Troy Stoudermire a few plays at cornerback starting this weekend against Bowling Green. The results certainly can't be any worse, and giving a young kid with some huge upside can only reap benefits down the road.

But giving up big plays like these is precisely the reason that the Gophers need to figure out how to control the ball better on offense. Long sustained drives that end in hard fought touchdowns tire out the defense, and keep the opposing offense from finding a ryhthm. As mentioned before, the Gophers best chance of winning football games is to keep the defense off of the field as much as possible until they can figure out how to stop a 3rd & long.

Monday, September 1, 2008


Here's a stat that Sid ran in his column today that I wasn't aware of, but it's an ugly one:

"One interesting fact about the Gophers victory is that the Huskies passed for zero yards in the first quarter but finished with 326 yards in the remaining three quarters."

That's right, the Gopher defense gave up and average of over 100 yards per quarter in those quarters. That's ugly.

In this article, Sid also says that the Gophers recruiting class wasn't a big factor in the win. While the recruiting class may not have been a big factor in the win, I would contend that the class had a nice showing in this game. I've had some trouble finding defensive stats for the game, but in going through the play-by-play, here's what I found:
-Troy Stoudermire had two kickoff returns for 74 yards
-Trumaine Brock had 5 tackles
-Traye Simmons had 4 tackles
-Jewhan Edwards had 2 tackles
-Simoni Lawrence had 3 tackles and forced a fumble

While I wouldn't use the phrase "big factor," (so I guess I'd be agreeing with Sid) I think that it is noteworthy that this recruiting class had the impact in this game that it did.