Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Win that Feels Like a Loss

Well that was awful. Jer and I sat through that game, drinking our Molson Canadian, in an almost quiet state of shock. After coaching changes on both sides of the ball, after such a promising spring with guys like MarQueis Gray and Troy Stoudermire looking ready to explode, an offense that appeared on the brink, and a defense that seemed loaded with confidence...we ended up seeing a team today that looked a lot like the Gopher squad which stumbled through the second half of last season. It certainly felt like last year watching them.

Sure, I'll take the overtime win instead of a 55-0 drubbing or a blowout bowl loss to Kansas, but if the Gophers play the way they did today against anybody else on their schedule except South Dakota State, they're going to lose. They deserved to lose today. Syracuse saved them by snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. For as much as the ESPN 2 announcing crew praised Paulus like he was the second coming of Brett Favre (Jer used a slightly more vulgar term that I can't repeat here), perhaps it was fitting that Paulus lost the game on a Favre-like killer interception in overtime. Yet despite that, Paulus DID play pretty well (he was maddeningly effective at scrambling to keep a play alive), as did his entire team. That defense looked ferocious, and played with such a chip on their shoulder it was like they had been forced to read each and every internet article that said how terrible The Cuse were supposed to be this year, and were out to prove them wrong.

Offensively Paulus was pretty decent, and the Orange staff had a very smart and simple game plan in the first half for him to complete short, quick routes and bubble screens to move the ball and build his confidence. It worked to perfection for the first half at least. Their line, which as the announcers rightly pointed out was supposed to be their weak link, certainly was not, while they ran the ball effectively and Mike Williams, once he gets another game or so under his belt, is going to be good. Syracuse very well could be a bowl team this year, so it's not like the Gophers had the same scare Iowa did today (good lord almighty! The Hawkeyes had to block not one but TWO 40 yard field goal attempts in the last seven seconds. The horseshoes they pulled out of their asses after the game must be colored black and gold), but there was a LOT more to be worried about than to feel good about.

Where to even begin? There was so much I was troubled by, including all of the false start penalties and dumb mistakes which just scream that the coaches didn't have their kids prepared to play today. We can hash out all of that later in the week, but for now, let's just focus on the problem everyone probably can and should look at, and that's with Adam Weber. He was awful. He looked just as lost as he did in the second half of last year. When he wasn't missing open receivers, he was forcing the ball to Eric Decker. It's a damn good thing Decker is one of the best receivers in the country (there's only a handful of guys who could have made that second half catch down the sideline in double coverage), but Weber must have targeted him on at least 75% of his throws. What the hell happened to all of these other receiving weapons Brewster bragging about? Stoudermire and Brandon Green looked pretty good on the rare occasions they were thrown the ball. And Hayo! Carpenter? Did he even see the field? Brewster wants to talk about what a playmaker and weapon this guy is and he rides pine all game? We'll find out how much of this what Weber locking in on one guy, and how much of it was Jedd Fisch's playcalling. I believe more of that should be faulted to Weber, because the only time he threw to someone other than #7 was when it was his first read. He only hit Green, Stoudermire, and his one completion to Tow-Arnett when those guys looked to be his first read on short routes.

And if that's the case, that your third year starter junior quarterback is only capable in making throws to his first read (and please prove me wrong, but I saw zero ability from Weber to scramble and keep a play alive in the pocket, which was something Paulus did very, very well), then why don't we just hand the team over to Grey and be done with it? Is it because Brew doesn't trust Grey, or is he just that loyal to Weber? Just like Brew raved about his weapons at receiver and talked about how they were all going to get involved, we also heard non-stop about the Wildcat formation and how they had all of these special packages and plays drawn up for MarQueis. Really? Where were they? Grey took a total of zero snaps today. None. They ran the "Wildcat" only once to my recollection, and it was with Stoudermire behind center.

By far my biggest question for Coach Brewster and his staff is where was Grey? Where? The kid has a world of talent, your starter SHOULD have cost you the game, and yet not only was he reluctant to give Weber the hook, he wouldn't even put Grey in the game? The offense was staggnant for the most part and had a lot of trouble moving the ball, so why not bring Grey in for a series to run the Wildcat or something else to switch it up? Just Syracuse something else to try and keep them off balance. I'm interested to hear Brewster's response, and I hope he has a good answer.

Ok I'm going to go mow the lawn and drink some more Molson and try to calm down. As bad as we looked today and as much as this felt like 2008 all over again, the defense did play pretty well in the second half once they settled in, and it actually looked like we could run the ball. Even though it doesn't feel like it, we're 1-0, and we open a brand new GORGEOUS football stadium next week against an Air Force opponent we should beat. Let's hope the coaches figure things out and get it together for next Saturday. And let's hope Adam Weber gets his mojo back.

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