Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Most Important Game of the Brewster Era

If you think about it, Saturday night's home game against Michigan State really is not only the most important game of 2009 for Minnesota, but also the most important in the three years of the Tim Brewster Era. With the team sitting at 4-4 and 2-3 in the Big Ten with star receiver Eric Decker out, the season, and Brewster's tenure, is hanging in the balance. A win would be a huge boost to a program that's badly in need of one. It would be only Brewster's second win as an underdog (the first being last year's victory on the road at Illinois), and would put us, at 3-3 in the conference with Illinois and Iowa remaining, in great position to finish with at least a .500 record. While that might not seem like much, consider that the last time Minnesota finished .500 or better in the Big Ten was 2005 at 4-4. It would also mean a much better shot at seven wins and a bowl game that wouldn't take place in Detroit. Obviously, we're all winners if that happens.

To me, seven wins and a 4-4 Big Ten record would be a positive step forward for Brewster and the program in year three, especially when considering this is the toughest schedule Minnesota has played in a long, long time.

But if Minnesota loses Saturday night, that would be three loses in a row, and we'd be in danger of unravelling after a Decker injury for the second straight season. While I would still like our chances against Illinois and South Dakota State if we lost to Michigan State, there's no telling what the loss, especially if it's a bad one at home, could do to the psyche of our team and coaches. We lost two games at home last year to Northwestern and Michigan we should have won, so the two against Illiois and SDSU shouldn't be considered gimme's. Illinois has been awful, but is still talented, and SDSU is 6-1 in 1-AA, which includes a win over Northern Iowa, the team who should have beaten Iowa in week 1. They're not your ordinary 1-AA squad, and should not be taken lightly.

A Michigan State loss might also send the message to recruits that this thing is NOT getting turned around, that if it spirals out of control for the second straight year that Brewster is not making the adjustments and improvements he talked about. If he enters year four at 6-6 or 5-7 or (gulp!) even 4-8, he'll be squarely on the hot seat, and unlike this year when we brought back 18 starters, he'll be having to fill a LOT of holes, including almost the entire starting defense. Four offensive starters will graduate in Decker, TE Nick Tow-Arnett, his brother and starting center Jeff, and OT Matt Stommes. Defensively it's a much bigger blow, as a whopping NINE starters are seniors this year: our entire starting front seven- linebackers Lee Campbell, Simoni Lawrence, and Nate Triplett, and linemen Eric Small, Garrett Brown, Cedric McKinley and Barrett Moen- as well as both starting corners Trey Simmons and Marcus Sherels.

To overcome that kind of loss, Brewster is going to need a monster recruiting year to add talent and depth, and it'll be a lot easier to do coming off a 7-5 year than 5-7 or 4-8. We NEED this Michigan State game to regain momentum and confidence in the season, and for the players, fans, and Joel Maturi to believe again that Brewster is the right man for this job and that he has us going in the right direction.

No pressure Tim- the biggest game of your life is Saturday night. On behalf of all Gopher fans, we hope you're ready.

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