Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Gopher OC Dunbar "Resigns"

Gopher offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar has officially resigned. According to the KARE11.com story it was "to pursue other professional interests." Uh huh, sure it was. Dunbar is resigning in the same way Tommy Tuberville was pushed out- I mean resigned at Auburn or former Gopher O-line coach Phil Meyer resigned after the Iowa debacle. I hope Dunbar lands on his feet somewhere next year, but after watching this offense last year, I am not sad to see Dunbar go. Once the Gophs hit Big 10 season, to say the offense was "stagnant at best" is about the nicest thing I can say. There was no creativity or originality once Big 10 teams figured them out, and worst of all there was no production. I have no doubts somebody else- ANYBODY else- can do better.

Brewster states in the release that he'll be conducting a national search for Dunbar's replacement. Jer thinks that national search probably begins and ends right down the hall in the office of newly hired O-line/running game coordinator Tim Davis. We shall see.

No Such Thing As a Good Loss

So much for the Big 10 showing up in bowl games. Sure, Ohio State didn't get blown out last night in the Fiesta Bowl, but correct me if I'm wrong, a loss is still a loss. Forgive me if I'm not taking solice in the fact Ohio State ALMOST won before the Longhorns scored a late TD to win 24-21. And if you are one of those people who are thinking "hey at least they didn't get blown out again" what does that say about the mindset of Big 10 fans? The conference was 1-6 in bowl games, and no matter how close Ohio State or Northwestern were to winning- THEY STILL DIDN"T WIN. The conference did absolutely nothing to dispell the national notion that the Big 10 is not very good, and belongs in the conversation with the Big East and Pac 10 for worst BCS conference- except that's probably not a conversation you want to get into considering the Big East was 5-1 and the Pac 10 5-0 in bowls this season.

The Big 10 deserves all the disrespect it will get between now and September, when Ohio State has a small chance for redemption when it hosts USC. The conference's bowl matchups this year were no worse than anyone else's. Seriously, other than the Trojans (who I would take on a neutral field over anybody right now. Of course, I said the same thing after they walloped the Buckeyes in September and then they went out and lost to Oregon State), the Big 10 were not, or maybe SHOULD not, have been overmatched against anybody. If they were, that just shows you how poor the teams were this year.

Is there hope for next season? I hope so, but there needs to be a LOT of improvement, because once again it looks like we're pinning the conference's national title hopes on Ohio State, and I don't like their chances next year anymore than I have the past three. Maybe I'm being too hard on a true freshman, but I wasn't exactly wowed by QB Terelle Pryor. Sure he's a wonderful athlete and made some nice plays with his feet, but he did nothing with his arm to make me believe he'll be a good quarterback. He's talented enough that Ohio State will be successful in the Big 10 using him as they do, but if they want to be able to beat the teams with speed from the SEC, Big 12 and USC (seriously, they need to go independent for football), they need to be able to throw the ball consistently. I also didn't like him running out of bounds twice, when once he had more than enough room to gain a first down but didn't, and the second time he barely got the first down but could have had another 10 yards. It just looked lazy and like he was more concerend with not getting hit than picking up a couple of extra yards.

As for the rest of the conference, we'll get into this more as the offseason progesses, but we can all agree there's a LOT of room for improvement for everybody else, as I believe Penn State will come back to the pack next year, meaning there's no other elite team in the conference. Mighty fine time for Coach Brewster and the Gophers to make the leap, because they'll have every opportunity to do so.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

McNeal goes south

I made sure to DVR the Army All-American game yesterday so that I could see if we'd be welcoming Michael Carter and Bryce McNeal into the Gopher Nation fold. We won't be.

Micheal Carter will be going to West Virginia. I can't even imagine the thought process that goes into deciding to go to West Virginia over Florida... much less Minnesota.

I have to admit that the Bryce McNeal signing doesn't surprise me. At least, not his decision to not sign with the Gophers. I never really felt like McNeal was going to give the Gophers a real look. It seems to me that Bryce McNeal decided that he was going to take advantage of the recruiting process and get everything out of it that he could. Making a trip down the street to take a look at Minnesota was just one more step in that process.

Buck Bravo has a fantastic commentary on McNeal's choice to go to Clemson, and seems to take a slight shot at Bryce in the process... something that I have NO problem with. I really couldn't have said it any better than Buck, so I'm going to quote a couple of my favorite points from his post.
"While Bryce McNeal is a solid four star recruit who would have likely developed into a top target for the Gophers as a wide receiver, he will probably never be the primary wide receiver at Clemson. Clemson already has a dangerous young wide receiver corps..."
But here, friends, is where Buck really makes it burn.
"While a commitment to Minnesota would have been great public relations for both McNeal and the Gophers, he is by no means a “can’t miss” recruit. He would have been a great addition to the Gopher football team, but Bryce McNeal is no Michael Floyd. Six years from now, Bryce McNeal will probably have retained his ability to walk around both South Carolina and Minnesota without being bothered or recognized by anyone at all."
I'm sure that Bryce McNeal will go on with his life, probably never think too much of any of the comments that anyone has to say about his decision to spurn Minnesota, or much about Gopher fans in general. Chances are, unfortunately, he'll probably never read Buck's comments (and that is by NO MEANS a shot at Buck). He'll probably go on to Clemson and really enjoy his college experience, and heck, he might even be part of a team with some real success.

But Bryce McNeal will never enjoy the celebrity and focus, or having an offense built around his talents, that he would have here at the University of Minnesota. So, in the words of Dan Barreiro...


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Insight Bowl Festivities

My cousin Josh (who also happens to be one of my best friends and was the best man in my wedding) lives in Tucson, AZ, and made the drive up to the Phoenix area for the Insight Bowl. I asked him to write some thoughts about the atmosphere surrounding the game, not necessarily focusing on the game itself, but more so the festivities and atmosphere of the game. Below are his thoughts:

I’ve been a fan of Minnesota Golden Gopher football for as long as I can remember. My parents started getting season tickets in the early eighties when I was only a couple years old, and my dad has been taking me to games since I was old enough to sort of know what was going on. I may not have always understood what was happening on the field, but I have always enjoyed the energy and atmosphere surrounding the pregame festivities, during an exciting game, and after the occasional victory. College football is a lot of fun for fans of any age, and being a passionate fan of my home college football team, for better or worse, is something I am proud of and cherish.
I have been fortunate enough to attend a few bowl games in recent years. I drove from Tucson, where I now live, to see the Gophers defeat Oregon in the 2003 Sun Bowl at El Paso. I made the trip to Nashville to take in a gopher victory over Alabama at the Music City bowl in 2004. A couple years ago I met my parents in Tempe to watch the Gophers take on Texas Tech in their first visit to the Insight bowl. Yesterday I returned to Tempe to cheer on my beloved Golden Gophers as they faced the Kansas Jayhawks in another Insight bowl.
It’s always great to see your favorite team in a bowl game. There’s a different kind of energy that surrounds a bowl game. It feels like everyone is on vacation, and I suppose that’s because most of the fans that travel to the game actually are on vacation. Anyway, everyone likes vacation, and it’s always fun to travel to see an away game, especially if it’s in beautiful sunny Arizona late in December. Of course, at bowl games there are always a lot of people who go to the game without any allegiance to one team or another. My friend overheard a “fan” on his phone saying “I’m at a bowl game in Tempe….Oh, it’s like Kansas and Missouri or something…” There are plenty of people who simply enjoy the game for the sake of the game, and I suppose they balance out those of us who bleed our team’s colors.
The Kansas fans were great. They outnumbered the gopher fans at least 2:1, but they were good spirited, courteous, and excited. I respect the fans of Jayhawks football; they are nothing like those low-down dirty fans of Iowa. I’m disappointed in my Gophers, but I am happy the Kansas fans got to enjoy a well deserved victory yesterday. It’s a good thing for their program, and I hope they rise to power in the Big 12.
I was a little bit disappointed in the pregame festivities this year. Prior to going up to Tempe I did some internet research in search of designated tailgating parties or at least some sort of chatter regarding pregame festivities. The only thing I could find was the party sponsored by the Goal Line Club, an organization to which my parents faithfully belong. This party was off site at a hotel near the stadium, and reservations were required. I am sure the Goal Line Club threw a great party, as they always do, but it wasn’t the scene I was looking for. I was looking for the lines of cars crowded with college kids holding red plastic cups, stereos blasting, with the occasional outburst of excitement and heated game of bean-bag-toss. I admit, perhaps I didn’t search long or hard enough, but I got to the stadium a few hours before game time, drove a circle around some $20 parking lots, where there was little if any pregame partying, and settled for one of many free parking spots curbside. I was disappointed that there wasn’t a more obvious and organized pregame party or student presence, but I didn’t let that get me down. My buddy and I made the best of it; we had a great time at our own little pregame party.
Last time I went to the Insight bowl there was a great tailgate party with music, food, pretty girls doing face painting, and of course beer. Lots of beer. This year no such party could be found. Maybe it’s the economy, maybe there weren’t enough tickets sold to justify the expense. Whatever the reason, it’s a bummer that there wasn’t more of a pregame party. I would think the organizers of the bowl game (especially a lower tier game like the Insight bowl) would want to get people talking about how great the party was. If you want people to travel to see the game, or at least attract locals and sell some tickets, you need to get people excited about the festivities. I wish the Insight bowl would have put together a better pregame party, and advertised to fans where such a party could be found. I wish more students would travel to the bowl game, and I wish these students would make it known they were there to get crazy and support their team.
My thanks go out to the loyal Gopher fans that made the trip. They were great (as always). I had a fantastic time at the Insight bowl this year, despite my disappointment. I recommend that Gopher football fans make the trip to the bowl games, regardless of how the season finishes up. After all, fans are what make a fan base, and the party is where you throw it.