Minnesota Golden Gophers LB Gary Tinsley found dead

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Twenty-two year old Gary Tinsley, a recent University of Minnesota football player was found dead in his dormitory room Friday morning, April 6.

University Police Chief Greg Hestness “there was no evidence of foul play,” but that this death is suspicious, like most deaths that involve college football and college basketball players.

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College Football 77 in 77: #77 Minnesota Golden Gophers

Minnesota Gophers mascot

At the 2010 Big Ten Tournament, I made a joke about how much I wanted to punch the University of Minnesota mascot, Goldy in the head. I’d love to watch his trademark head swivel around, except in this case put into motion by the force of a right-handed uppercut.
Three days before the 2011 BTT, a fan did just that. So when I saw Goldy Gopher again in Indy, I gave him a hug and told him “I feel your pain.” Because both the college football and the college basketball program have been dealt swift punches to the head this past year.

No more reason to inflict additional pain- they have plenty enough in Dinkytown already. Before being fired, Tim Brewster wrecked the program. And the hoops team saw their promising season crushed into bits by the season ending injury to point guard Al Nolen.

Will things get better on the East Bank of the Mighty Mississippi this school year?

By Paul M. Banks

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Jerry Kill Was All Gophers Football Could Hope For

Jerry Kill

And that is not as much of an insult as it sounds. [Read more…]

When Will Joel Maturi Fire Tim Brewster?

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Tim Brewster signed a contract extension this offseason that will keep him as the Gophers head coach through the 2013 season.

In a town that has been famous for terrible football coaches (Glen Mason, Mike Tice, Brad Childress), this should come as no surprise.

But only three days after the Gophers lost to USC in a game that had no business being as close as it was, it is becoming more painfully obvious that mediocrity is something not only accepted, but embraced around Minnesota’s campus.

When Minnesota Athletic Director Joel Maturi presented Tim Brewster with the two year extension, he expressed optimism about the future, saying that Brewster “deserves to coach his kids.”

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With Signing Day Here, Gophers Look Out of Running for Seantrel Henderson

By Mike Gallagher

Seantrel Henderson is one of the best recruits to ever come out of Minnesota, and it looks as if he’ll be the best one ever to get away.

With signing day on February 3rd, Henderson is set to announce his decision on CBS College Sports Network at 4:30 p.m. central time.

Not a person that can be found on earth knows what school Henderson is going to go with, and a dry run a few hours ago in the CBS College studios wielded no hint of it, either.

The one detail we do know, which is completely insignificant, is that it may not involve a hat selection, just a verbal revealing of the choice.

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Gophers, Brewster Talking Contract Extension

By Mike Gallagher

If this were a bar, Gophers AD Joel Maturi would be cutoff.

“The fact of the matter is we’re 6-6, if we win our bowl game, we’ll be 7-6.  That’s one game better than when Brewster took over the program three years ago.”

Wow.  That was Maturi a few days before the Gophers DID NOT win the Insight Bowl vs. Iowa State, thus making the Gophers record the same as it was the last year before the Brewster reign of terror began.

Even if the Gophers had won the bowl game, think of the hilarity of that comment.  How low must expectations be that an improvement of one win over three seasons is acceptable?

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Gophers Are in Familiar Territory at Insight Bowl

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By Mike Gallagher

Success is measured by where expectations were set for a certain team or player for the period of time in question.  Take, for instance, Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans.  He had six 125 yard games in a row heading into the contest against the undefeated Colts last week.  His 113 yards, while it was tied for second-best performance of the week, was considered an off-game.

Now take the Minnesota Gophers football team.  While they made it to the Insight Bowl, facing Iowa State in Tempe, Arizona on December 31st, the expectation was for eight or nine wins this year to improve on the total of seven last year.  This is also the third time in four years they have gone to the same bowl, a huge sign that there is little to no progression in the program.  Not exactly sounding like a great deal of success?

Let’s next look at Iowa State.  Back in the glory days of Sage Rosenfels, who led the Cyclones to their first bowl berth and subsequent victory in 2000, and Seneca Wallace, who led them to two more bowls after Rosenfels departure, wins were flowing and the times were good in Ames.  But after two seasons under Gene Chizik netted only five wins before he flew the coupe for Auburn, Iowa State had to re-tool and go on a coaching search.

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Enter Paul Rhoads.  Coincidently, Rhoads was the Auburn defensive coordinator when Chizik was at Iowa State.  The two flipped schools, with Chizik taking over at Auburn as the head coach when Tommy Tuberville retired.  Rhoads was very emotional when he took the job in late 2008 with the Cyclones, as he had grown up right down the road from Ames in Nevada, Iowa.

Obviously, the Cyclones were hungry to make their new coach proud.  Behind the legs of 1,000-yard back Alexander Robinson, who the Cyclones snatched out of the back pocket of the Gophers from De La Salle High School in Minneapolis, they did just that.

Iowa State went 6-6 with a big quality win on the road against Big 12 North champion Nebraska, and with a tough 41-36 loss against then ranked Kansas.  They made their first bowl since 2005 and beat their win total from the last two years combined.

The way this year went for Iowa State sounds like one word.  Success.

The Gophers went 6-6 this year, were 4-3 on the road, 2-3 at home, 3-5 in the conference, scored 21.6 ppg, gave up 24.6 ppg, have averaged 198 yards passing/gm, have a starting QB with a rating of 113, and finished 8th in the Big Ten.

The Cyclones went 6-6 this year, 4-3 on the road, 2-3 at home, 3-5 in the conference, scored 21.1 ppg, gave up 22.6 ppg, have averaged 182 yards passing/gm, have a starting QB with a rating of 119, and if you combine the Big 12 North and South, they would’ve finished tied for 8th in the conference.

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With two teams so evenly matched, it’s hard to imagine momentum and confidence not playing a key role in this game.

The momentum will go to the team that has been, by our definition, successful.  The team that has accomplished something this year, and the team that’s going forward.

Iowa State is a great story and should be praised for the way they’ve taken to Paul Rhoads philosophy and tactics right away.  It can sometimes take a while for players to adjust and buy in, such as the team on the other sideline during the Insight Bowl, three years and still no sign of adjustments or success for the Gophers.  Iowa State players believed and it’s paid off.

Belief and confidence will be the difference in this game, and believe Alex Robinson will have a little revenge on his mind to mix in with the other ingredients that could equal a win for the Cyclones.

Gophers Football Has Long Road Ahead

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By Mike Gallagher

When Tim Brewster took over the University of Minnesota’s football program three years ago, it was not a pretty sight.  That was reflected on the field in the 2007 season, when the Gophers went 1-11.

The idea from there was that the program would begin a rebuilding process that would have the team in the Big Ten’s contenders by at the earliest the third year of Brewster’s reign, but definitely the fourth.

What you have seen this year is what ultimately ruined that plan.

With the Gophers rapping up a regular season filled with hope, and then massive disappointment, things are looking as if they’ll get worse before they get better.

Looking into the stats shows nothing to inspire hope.  The offense ended the regular season 113th in the nation in yards/gm.  When an offense is this bad, you have to start at the head of the unit.  Adam Weber’s struggles have been chronicled, and were amplified this weekend vs. Iowa in which he failed to complete 50% of his passes for the fifth time in six games.  For only the second time all year, he didn’t throw an interception, but made up for it by fumbling twice.

Think he should be benched?  I did, and still don’t think it could hurt, but it’s painfully obvious that his backup, Marqueis Gray, is far from ready to captain an offense.  In limited but consistent duty this year, he completed only 38% of his passes.  He showed his football immaturity this past weekend, throwing an interception while scrambling out of the pocket.

Don’t expect much help from their targets next year, either.  The U will lose their top two receivers, Eric Decker and TE Nick Tow-Arnett, to graduation.  Aside from those two, no one else had more than 300 yards receiving, even with Decker being out the last month.

The run game isn’t exactly a beacon of light either, it ranked 108th in the nation this year.  No Gopher running back averaged more than 4.2 yards per carry this year.  You’d think over the entire season someone would break one that brought that average up a little bit, but in reality no Gopher had more than a 29-yard run on the year.

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The only good news here is that the, ahem, three headed monster, of running backs (Deleon Eskridge, Kevin Whaley, Duane Bennett) are all back next year.  Maybe with another year under their young belts, they will be able to be more of a factor in the offense.

But does is matter how good the backs are?  As we know from my other recent articles (my 4 loyal readers would know), it all starts up front and the biggest problem this year has been on the lines.  While having one of the worst run blocking teams in the nation, they have also allowed the most sacks in the Big Ten this year.  After losing center Jeff Tow-Arnett for the season with an injury, there was no hope left for this patchwork group.

The bright side for the O-line is that only Tow-Arnett is graduating, leaving four of five starters on the line.  At this point, the Gophers top recruit is an offensive lineman, Jimmy Gjere.  With Seantrel Henderson still considering the U, this is a group that could be much improved.  But even big improvement might only bring them to average after how this year went.

On the other side of the ball, it’s simple.  The defense kept the Gophers in a lot of games, including this past week vs. Iowa.  They rank smack dab in the middle of the national rankings in scoring defense, at 60th.  The bad part is that they’re graduating their entire front seven.  Nate Triplett and Lee Campbell will be sorely missed at linebacker, while they also graduate Kim Royston and Treye Simmons, key contributors in the secondary.  The defense will be gutted, leaving many to wonder how they’ll be in any games next year.

Looking at the very near future, they have a bowl-game to prepare for, what will likely be the Little Ceasers Pizza Bowl.  Obviously this game is of very little importance to this program, which is why I’m paying no attention at all to it.

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The big picture is what matters, and there’s virtually no shot that AD Joel Maturi will make a coaching change this offseason, so the Gophers are going to have to work with what they have, coach included.  What they have right now is not very much, especially heading into next year.  Brewster has gotten practically nothing from his recruits, and that will need to change in order for there to be some progress since they graduate a very productive group of 27 seniors.

This was a key year to see the direction of this team, and with the way they performed and all the talent they’re graduating, how can there be any excitement around not only this bowl game, but the years to come?

After this year, there is no light at the end of the mediocre tunnel anymore.  The tunnel just got a lot longer.  Tim Brewster needs to find a way to get more out of what he’s got, because if he doesn’t, he won’t be around to reach the end of that tunnel.

Seantrel Henderson Key for Minnesota Football

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By Mike Gallagher

You might not have heard of Seantrel Henderson.  But if you follow the college recruiting scene at all, you’re probably jumping out of your chair just by reading his name.  But for those of you not familiar, here’s what he brings to the table.

Henderson is a 6-8, 301 pound offensive tackle currently attending Cretin Derham-Hall in Saint Paul, MN.  He is an AAU basketball star, but more importantly for the Gophers, he is Rivals.com number one recruit in the nation.  As an offensive tackle, that is a mighty accomplishment.

You may recognize the names of a few other Rivals number one prospects; Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, and Jimmy Clausen.  Ringing any bells?

Even more important to the Gophers football team is the fact that he is actually considering the U as an option.  The other five schools rumored to be in the running?  Florida, Notre Dame, USC (they already have commitments from the second and third best national prospects), Oklahoma, and Ohio State.

On that list, the team that stands out like a sore thumb is the University of Minnesota.  Obviously the prestige of the other programs dwarfs that of the Gophers, but only Henderson is the judge of that, and come signing day, only he will make that decision.

Obviously rumors have swirled about Henderson liking this school and not liking that school, but let’s throw that out because we can speculate until the sky starts falling and still will not know.  But think of the ramifications of Henderson coming to Minnesota.

All the problems for the Gophers offensively have started up front this year.  The Gophers, following pathetic performances versus Illinois (L 35-32), and South Dakota State (W 16-13), are now 112th in the nation in yards/gm.  Adam Weber is getting no time and that has left him 96th in the nation in passing efficiency, and 378th in yards.  The receivers the Gophers are left with sans Eric Decker can’t get open in two seconds, they need time that they’re not getting.

With Henderson, the offensive line could start rebuilding, and that would improve the Gophers in every area.  He is ranked as the second best pass blocker in the nation, and in any video you watch, he manhandles the guy across from him (http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=4222005).

Adam Weber (or Marqueis Gray http://thesportsbank.wpengine.com/minnesota-golden-gophers/eric-decker-out-for-season-adam-weber-should-follow/) would get more time, the receivers more time to get open, and Kevin Whaley, who has performed well at times this year, could get some holes opened for him rather than seeing a mass of humanity every carry.  Henderson is a guy that you line up against the opponents best pass rusher, and a guy you can build a run game behind.

That being said, let’s not get too carried away, too many times the Gophers have let top recruits walk right out of their backyard, including one of Henderson’s good friends and former teammates, Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd.

floyd

The implication when Tim Brewster was hired was that that kind of thing would not happen anymore.  Floyd leaving hurt the Gophers, especially looking at the team now, a playmaking receiver would be nice.

But having a rivals.com #1 talent walk out of the state would completely discredit the main reason Brewster was given this job.  Brewster has had two of his number one targets walk out on him already, and two may be a fluke, but three is a definite trend.

With the loss to Illinois two weeks ago and the pewtred performance against FCS powerhouse (if there is such a thing) SDSU in which the Gophers failed to score an offensive touchdown, it has officially fallen apart for Tim Brewster’s squad on the field.  Should Henderson walk away from his home town team for greener D-1 pastures and be the third top Gopher target to do so, surely it’s all fallen apart for Brewster off the field as well.

I completely understand that it’s a number one national prospect and it may be unrealistic to expect him to come to a Gopher team that has shown him absolutely no signs of hope the last few weeks on the field.  But he has kept Minnesota on his list for a reason, and knowing that, Tim Brewster should put the full court press on this kid.

Henderson definitely wouldn’t solve all of the Gophers problems, but he would be a GREAT place to start.

Hunger Matchup: Eric Perkins vs. Gophers Football

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Gopher fans, it’s the time of the year you’ve all been waiting for! It’s not on the calendar, but magically it comes around every year at almost the exact same time. It’s the time the Gophers hopes are officially dashed when they start to play teams ranked in the top 25! Exciting as this is for the Big Ten and Gophers opponents, it is disheartening to those involved in the program, as well as those of us covering it. So let this be a forewarning to anyone that cares about the Gophers; Penn State and Ohio State are going to eat you alive.

Speaking of eating, the Gophers came out and did some feasting of their own, devouring a terrible Purdue team, who’s defensive line surrendered 207 yards rushing in their 35-20 defeat Saturday. Minnesota also managed to shove a Joey Elliott pass, a fumble on a kickoff, and a blocked field goal into their already stuffed bellies. The blocked field goal as well as the kickoff fumble, both came in a disastrous third quarter for the Boilermakers, who also featured a seven yard punt in the frame. The worst team in the Big Ten showed their colors, and the Gophers took care of business.

I also had a chance to do some eating that day, complimentary halftime food from the U in my cozy press box seat. Once I had the food and Purdue began to hand the game to Minnesota on a silver platter in the third, I quickly lost interest. Phil Wise, who played nine years in the NFL with the Jets and later the Vikings, struck up a conversation with me about meeting Willie Mays back in Wise’s playing days.

“Very nice guy,” he said. “Then later I met Bob Gibson.”

Talk about name dropping, I almost dropped my bagel when Wise said those two.

The game wound down with Purdue ending a late comeback attempt, driving down two scores with five minutes left, by turning it over on downs. The clock hit zeros as the Gophers picked up another non-descript victory putting them at 4-2, 2-1 in the Big Ten.

I rose from my seat and took the elevator down to the press conference. The first man I saw was Sid Hartman, located front and center as usual. Sid is 90 years old and a local icon. He still covers Minnesota sports 64 years after his first article, he knows nearly everyone that’s anyone in the sports world.

I took a seat in the back row, too focused on Mike Max, another big shot sports guy around the area, having to yell to get Sid’s attention to tell him the post-conference plan.

“Where’s Gate F?!” Sid yelled back.

Bright eyed, bushy tailed, wet-behind-the-ears me was just happy to be there, but others had seen this act before. A few reporters on my left chuckled about the commotion. I looked over and one was Eric Perkins, a KARE 11 sports anchor, who is famous for his “Perk at Play” segments.

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>After a few seconds, Perkins said to the reporter in front of him; “I could really go for some pizza.”

“Yeah, just a nice big slice?” the man replied.

“Yeah, you know what they need, a place like Chipotle, except for pizza,” Perkins said. “Are there any places like that?”

“Sbarro, but that’s about it,” said the man.

“Yeah,” said Perkins sounding skeptical. “I just want a really good slice though, why can’t anybody do that? I really could use one right now.”

Having heard that conversation, I could barely hold it together. This is like my college dorm room. People talking about completely meaningless things while others scream at each other to figure out plans for the night. There’s no difference between these guys and twenty year old kids like myself. It almost seems like just another day around my place.

Thankfully, before I burst out laughing taking this all in and looking at the insanity surrounding me, Tim Brewster came out and calmed the masses.

He was extremely happy with the effort and said the team was hungry to win this game because it was homecoming and because they wanted to win it for senior Jeff Tow-Arnett (out for season, broken leg).

It got me wondering, were the Gophers more hungry than Eric Perkins is at this moment?

Trying to compare the two is hard, but that man was really hungry.