Thursday, October 22, 2009

We Love Golden Gopher Football

Maybe I'm saying this as much for me as I am for anyone besides me who has listened to the podcast: we here at the blog are not happy and do not sound happy about the 2009 edition of the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team. And WOW did we sound bitter and frustrated on the podcast last night. But you know what? I'm sorry I'm not sorry. Not because we're c***smen (because obviously, we are), but because we love the Gophers and this program. We really, really do.

We are frustrated and disappointed with how the season has gone and especially with how the offense has (or maybe more accurately has not) performed. We feel like Adam Weber should be benched and MarQueis Gray should be given a chance to show what he can do because if not, why did we not just redshirt the kid? We feel like Jed Fisch isn't using the talent he has on offense and that head coach Tim Brewster...well, this offense is not what I feel like we were sold by The Maroon & Gold Salesmen before the season.

But we feel this way because we love Gopher football. Probably too much. Probably a lot too much. We want nothing more than for Coach Brewster to lead the Gophs to Pasadena and the first Rose Bowl in forever. We'd especially love it if hell froze over and Weber was the quarterback who led the offense there. No really, we would.

For me personally, I'm especially frustrated and angry and disappointed right now mostly because I just didn't think this would happen. I didn't think we'd be sitting here for the third straight year at midseason baffled by what we're seeing. The 1-11 year was tough, but it was a rebuilding year and we got to see just how bare the cupboard was that Glen Mason had left behind. Last year was tough because of how well we started and how poorly we finished, but let's be honest, we overachieved in the first six or weeks or so, and our lack of talent and depth once Eric Decker and Duane Bennett got hurt came back to bite us.

It didn't mean the last two years weren't frustrating, but at least there were concrete reasons you could point at for the reasons we failed. But this year? This year, not so much. Jer and I were critical about a few aspects of the defense, but let me be clear: the defense is NOT the problem this season. Not by a long shot. They're being asked to do way too much and carry far too much of the burden. Our offense averages a league low 26:43 in time of possession, and only Michigan has the ball anywhere near as seldom as we do. Of course, Michigan combats that with by far the highest scoring offense in the Big Ten. Ours? Yeah not so much, and that's where my biggest frustration is.

We were supposed to have fixed out offensive line problems with a more down-hill, pro-style blocking scheme that suited the players we had, and we were also improving with two new starters in transfers Matt Carufel from Noh-trah Dame and Jeff Wills from the junior college of the giants (or something). But the lineplay has been no better than last year.

We were supposed to have fixed our running game problem now that both Duane Bennett and Kevin Whaley were healthy and ready to go. Yet while those two and DeLeon Eskridge are all averaging at least 4.1 yards per carry, our running game is statistically worse: in 2008 we ran for 1350 yards at just 3.1 yards per carry, an average over 13 games of just 103.85 yards per game. Through seven games in 2009 we're managed just 724 yards at 3.5 yards per carry, good for only 103.43 yards per game.

We were definitely supposed to have fixed our quarterback problem because quarterback was not a problem at all. Adam Weber entered 2009 as a second team all-conference quarterback whose struggles down the stretch last year were a result of injuries around him and a lack of blocking and playmakers. You know the story so far: much worse numbers across the board, and yet despite having an uber-talented true freshman quarterback in MarQueis Gray who the coaches DID NOT redshirt because they had so-called "big plans" for him, they refuse to give him meaningful snaps to see if he can be any more effective than Weber.

Finally, we absolutely, positively definitely were supposed to have fixed our problem of not having a viable second, third or fourth option to super receiver Eric Decker. Sophomores Brandon Green and Troy Stoudermire were ready to step up and be dangerous, HAYO!! Carpenter joined the team as the top junior college wideout in the nation last year, and youngsters Bryant Allen and Da'Jon McKnight were oozing talent. We had SO much talent at wideout that senior Ben Kuznia, who was the team's third leading receiver in 2008 with 31 catches, has been relegated to special teams because he just couldn't compete.

Well guess what? Through seven games none of these guys that were supposed to help Decker, not even surprisingly effective senior tight end Nick Tow-Arnett, is on pace to match Kuznia's 31 catches from a year ago. Seriously, no one. Tow-Arnett is our second leading receiver right now with just 16 catches, which puts him on pace for just 29 for the season. I wish I were kidding.

This is not to advocate that Ben Kuznia should be freed from special teams purgatory and is the answer to our offensive woes, it's just to make the point that something has gone wrong here. We thought we had the answers to everything and yet we've still solved nothing on offense. Is it the scheme? Is it the quarterback? *COUGHHACKIT'SDEFINITELYWEBERCOUGH* Sorry, had a tickle in my throat there. Is it just that the receivers aren't "catching" on (sorry, bad pun. Couldn't resist)? And if so, then why wouldn't you give Kuznia a chance again since he proved last year he was good for 30 catches last year when noone else has been?

Why didn't we redshirt MarQueis Gray if we're never going to use him, especially with Weber struggling so much? Why did we recruit HAYO! Carpenter at all if we're never going to use him? Ditto the rest of our receivers not named Eric Decker? WHAT ARE WE DOING ON OFFENSE?!?!?!?

Gopher fans, I ask not because I hate the Gophers and Brewster and Wonderboy Jed and Weber, but because I care and want nothing more than for them to succeeed. Really, I do. I care. I care way, way too much. Am I angry because I care or do I care because I'm angry? It's a vicious cycle. For the sake of my blood pressure, let's hope we start to get some positive answers Saturday against Ohio State.

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