Monday, November 16, 2009

From SDSU to Iowa and Beyond

I was all set to lay into the Gophers and Tim Brewster for another sub-par performance, but really, what is there left to say? We're now 11 games into the season, and we're still seeing the same problems we've seen all season. We not only haven't gotten better as the season progressed, we've gotten worse. The defense was excellent in the win over SDSU, but I'm not going to separate my shoulder slapping the defensive players and coaches on the back for holding a 1-AA team to 13 points and under 300 yards of offense. As a Big Ten school playing at home that's what you're supposed to do to a 1-AA team.

But the rest of it? It's the same garbage and the same problems we've been harping on all season, and none of it has changed. Special teams stunk again, allowing the long kickoff returns that kept SDSU in the game. Weber was awful but hey we'll keep making excuses for him because it can't be his fault he's quarterbacked the worst offense in the Big Ten, and one of the worst in the country, for 11 weeks. Nope, can't blame the quarterback. Not his fault at all.

Brewster obviously believes this because despite yet another abysmal performance from Weber, MarQueis Gray was allowed to throw one pass (coming in the first quarter), and ran less than 10 plays, none of them in succession. Of all the inexplicable things about this game and this season, how does Gray not get a few series when your defense is stopping the opposition cold and your offense is doing absolutely nothing with a lead against a freaking 1-AA team? What could you possibly have to lose? I could go on and on and on about this, but it's the same argument and the same thing I've been saying for almost the entire season, so you've probably heard more than enough of it- Weber is terrible, and Brewster has completely wasted Gray's freshman season. Completely. At this point, I have zero reason and no hope whatsoever that Gray will be given any chance to compete for a starting job next year that at any other school would be up for grabs. Not here. Weber will be your starter next year where you can expect another bad season with Brewster and some Gopher fans continually making excuses for him as we let another season go down the drain. The only silver lining for that happening would be Weber would be out of eligibility and we'd get a new head coach in here who might recognize a problem when he sees one, and work to correct it.

Of course, Weber was far from the only problem in Saturday's non-loss, as has been the case all season: the receivers were inconsistent, the line stunk, our running backs couldn't gain yards against an undersized 1-AA defense, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry, and our 3rd down offense was atrocious converting just 3 of 16chances. Oh, and of course the maddening penalties were back in full force with 7 for 46 yards.

It's the same problems we've had all season, and there's no reason to expect it won't continue against Iowa this weekend. There was hope we'd be able to kick the Hawks while they're down with a backup quarterback and them reeling after back-to-back losses that ruined their dream of a perfect season and a Big Ten title. But after their valiant performance Saturday in Columbus in an overtime loss, Iowa has responded in desparation like a wounded animal fighting for its life, and instead of rolling over and dying, they're going to fight for everything they can get with a good chance of still going to a BCS game if/when they trounce us.

In the last two months, we've had one bright spot in the Michigan State game, and the rest, especially the last two weeks, have about shot any semblance of hope I have remaining for an upset this weekend. Instead of peaking at the end of the season like good, well-coached teams do, we're playing our worst football of the year, and only Tim Brewster can and will be able to put a positive spin on this thing.

And maybe that's for the best: the pressure is completely off for Minnesota, as according BamaHawkeye's weekly bowl projections over on The Rivalry, we're pretty much locked into seventh place in the Big Ten and a trip to Arizona for the Insight.Com Bowl for the third time in four years. That place is becoming a second home to us like the Music City Bowl was in the Mason years, but I'll take it over a trip to Detroit. With USC AND Miami both losing last weekend, the Big Ten is now guaranteed a second BCS bowl birth as long as one of Iowa or Penn State wins- both would be ranked in the top 14 of the BCS, and both have massive, traveling hoardes to fill any BCS bowl stadium.

If both the JoePa's and Hawkeyes win, the second spot will go to Penn State because head-to-head matchups don't matter for selection so Iowa's win over the Nittany Lions will be meaningless, and Penn State not only travels as well as Iowa, but they're a more well-known, nationally recognized program and they have the Joe Paterno Factor. Still, barring major upsets this weekend, one of them WILL fill a second BCS slot which moves everybody else up a notch, and moves the Gophs away from Detroit to Tempe.

So maybe this isn't the worst thing in the world: we can expect the absolute worst against Iowa (since we've seen it first hand in the same game last year) and hope for the best. Barring another 55-0 drubbing to the Hawks and a subsequent beating in the Insight Bowl by one of the dredges of the Big 12, Brewster's going to get a fourth season, and can point to this as some kind of improvement has he's guided the program to back-to-back bowls against a much tougher schedule than Glen Mason ever faced. He'll have an entire offseason with the same coaching staff to fix the many, many, many problems this team has in all three facets, and then we can look to 2010 as a make or break year: either Brewster and Weber lead us to 10 wins and a New Year's Day bowl and we'll happily extend the coach and praise Weber for finally figuring it out, or next season goes much like this season, which means we'd be rid of both coach and quarterback and get a fresh start for 2011. Either way, it'll mean the frustration and disappointment of this season won't be all for nothing. It just feels that way right now.

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