Tim Brewster’s Recruiting Classes: Failing

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By Mike Gallagher

It’s been six years since Paul Bunyan’s axe has graced Minnesota’s campus.  The case in which it rests is a barren and pathetic sight.  You could say it almost resembled the play of the Gophers last Saturday.  The score had no business being as close at it was. Zach Brown handed the Gophers seven garbage time pts. via fumble.

Somehow, the Gophers managed to scrape together one more chance.  That, however, was quickly squashed by the Gophers O-line, which was issuing free passes for the Badgers defensive linemen to get in.  Weber had no more than two seconds to find anyone on the last drive and finally fumbled to end the game, but he can hardly be blamed for that.

It was a game the Gophers needed to win for gaining legitimacy on the Big Ten stage.  When they needed it most, the supporting cast did not step up, which seems to be a recurring theme around TCF Bank Stadium.  You can only lose so many games versus legitimate opponents before people start asking what the problem is.  Don’t look too deep though, because this one is easy.

Take a look at the Gophers stats page on any website or media guide you have handy.  Who are the key contributors?  Look closely, and you’ll notice a trend.  Almost everyone giving anything worthwhile is a senior.  Eric Decker and Nick Tow-Arnett (1-2 in receiving yards), redshirt junior (a.k.a. senior) Adam Weber. Nate Triplett, Lee Campbell, and Simoni Lawrence are the top three tacklers on the squad, and starting corners Treye Simmons and Marcus Sherels.

The list goes on, but the real interesting list here is the underclassmen:  WR’s Vincent Hill, Brandon Green and Brodrick Smith, RB’s Duane Bennett, Shady Solomon and Deleon Eskridge.  Brewster’s QB son Clint and prize of Brewster’s 2008 recruiting class QB Marqueis Gray. timbrewsteryelling

These are just the position players he’s brought in to plug holes, but they’ve been more like sieves than plugs for the offense.  This is especially true with the hands of former four-star recruit Brandon Green, who is being relied on as a second option, but can’t seem to hold on to the ball.  The other four-star recruit, Vincent Hill, no longer attends the U and is not listed on any college roster anywhere now.  Brodrick Smith and Clint Brewster also transferred.  Marqueis Gray was an All-American in high school and 4 star recruit, and has contributed nothing.  Yes, he has Weber ahead of him on the depth chart, but the coaching staff has still been unable to find anyway to really make him produce consistently on the field. The three running backs are 1-2-3 on the depth chart, but it’s a non-existent running attack that has only yielded 96 yards a game (106th in the nation).

Both of the last two classes have been nationally ranked coming in.  But key departures and lack of development from very naturally talented athletes have hurt key positions.  It’s clearly showing how their stars can only carry them so far.  They need to put something together outside of Adam Weber to Eric Decker or they’re going to suffer a brutal wake up call against Penn State and Ohio State after they dispose of Purdue next week.

Some help from underclassmen would be nice, but since they can’t perform, it lies on the seniors.  Let’s not think about next year, because it might make this year look like a national title.

Cal Bears more Golden than Gophers

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By Mike Gallagher
Minnesota football hadn’t beaten a top 10 opponent at home since 1977 (#1 Michigan.)  California had lost eight of its last nine road games dating back two years.  Some of those losses were to teams that were riding a low in 2007 (Stanford and Washington.)
Something had to give in this Pac 10-Big Ten clash, and both programs were soaring with confidence and emotion going into the weekend.  Cal had scored more than 50 points and gained more than 500 yards in their first two games, granted against far from serviceable competition (Maryland and Eastern Washington), but they played nearly flawlessly.  They had not turned the ball over, given up only 20 points combined, and scored touchdowns on 64% of their drives.

On the other side of the coin, the Gophers’ high was more about emotion than how they performed on the field.  While they had two wins and a brand new stadium, they also had only 21 points a game and had won by three and seven points respectively against opponents that had no business being in a game with a Big Ten program.  Their offense had looked lackluster and their running game, which in previous seasons had carried them through tough times, had been practically non-existent.  Oregon State California Football

More importantly than the problems in their running game was on the other side of the ball.  Their rush defense got gashed for 261 yards against Air Force and it was clearly exposed as the way to move the ball on the Gophers.  That may not have been such an issue if the man in the backfield for Cal wasn’t Jahvid Best, an early Heisman Trophy candidate and one of the most dangerous weapons in college football.  He also was the reason that people around town were calling it a success if the Gophers were within shouting distance at halftime.

But the Gophers did the critics one better, going into the fourth quarter Saturday afternoon tied and with the ball with the chance to move ahead of the west coast powerhouse.  But the Gophers drive stalled, Cal seized the opportunity and matriculated the ball down the field for a score.  The gophers still had life, with a kick return out to the 40, but Adam Weber threw a costly INT and Cal again grabbed the bull by the horns and punched in another TD.  Oh, and that Jahvid Best guy, he accounted for all five of the Golden Bear touchdowns (tying a school record for rush TD’s) to go along with 131 yards on the ground.

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Plain and simple, California is the better team.  The Golden Bears are right up there with the best conference foes/future opponents of the Gophers: Penn State and Ohio State.  Whenever you have a running back like Best and a rush defense the caliber of Cal’s, which has allowed less than 40 yards in two of their three games, you have a formula for winning.  I haven’t even gotten to QB Kevin Riley, who threw four touchdowns against Maryland and STILL has not turned the ball over.  They are a legitimate top-10 program with all the tools they need to grab a BCS bowl bid.

As for the Gophers, the end result is disappointing considering the position they were in heading to the fourth quarter.  But considering the chance they were given and their history against programs like Cal, I think there has been a lot of progress made and it really showed in the first three quarters of this game.  ericdecker1

Now they have to learn to play a complete game, because if you look at their first three games, none of them have been 60-minute efforts.  Against Syracuse, the offense put up points the first half, but was awful in the second half.  In the game against Air Force they were horrible the first three quarters, but got it together in time for a win.  Today, they gave Jahvid Best and Co. all they could handle through three, but games are won and lost in the fourth quarter.  That’s the difference between programs such as California, and programs like the U of M.  Cal played a complete, well rounded game.  They capitalized on opportunities given to them, and when the chance presented itself for them to seal the game, they did.

Just because it’s a loss for Brewster’s club doesn’t mean it’s a horrible thing.  If you would’ve told anyone in the Gophers locker room they would go into the fourth tied against the 8th ranked team in the country, any one of them would’ve jumped at the opportunity.  A year ago, this game would’ve been an embarrassment and an exhibition.  Now, they can keep their heads up because there are actually positive things you can find in this loss.  They need to look at the first three quarters and use them as a blueprint for success.  They also need to look at the fourth quarter and correct the mistakes and mental lapses so they don’t let them creep back into their mind.
If they can put those two things together, they’ll start out what has potential to be a successful conference season, on the right foot in Evanston next week.

Fairy Tale Beginnings for TCF Bank Stadium

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By Mike Gallagher

At 2:00 p.m. there were fans in the parking lot tailgating for the upcoming Gophers Football game, but it didn’t even start until 6. It may not seem like anything special to the USCs, Texas or Oklahomas of the world, but if you’ve been around Minneapolis, this brought chills through your entire body.

Never in the 27 years that the Metrodome housed the Gophers was there excitement like this. You could never smell the hot dogs, sit in the sun and have a beer, or see the anticipation building with the gathering fans in the stands.
For people that have been around this town and the lackluster indoor football that its college program brought, this was special.

As fighter jets flew overhead, yet another thing most Gopher fans experienced for the first time, the 50,000 fans who sold out TCF were in a frenzy. You didn’t need any more evidence of what this meant to the University than the tears rolling down honorary captain and Gopher legend Bud Grant’s face as he witnessed the amazing scene. The emotion, the excitement, the anticipation, the long, painful years of waiting that every Gopher fan felt over the endless struggles this program faced.

It was finally here.

“You know you try to make it like any other game. But on the bus ride coming down University, all of frat row, and just seeing that it’s a whole different era now for our football program and just for our team,” said junior QB Adam Weber.
Understandably, it took the Gophers a while to settle in, they trailed 10-3 going into the fourth. But they knew, as did the 50,000 in the stands and the thousands more glued to their television sets around Minnesota, that it couldn’t end like this.

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“This place was magic tonight,” coach Tim Brewster said. “We knew that it was our night and it was our house.”
That magic came at the perfect time. An offense that had been in a slumber the better part of their last 5 quarters, suddenly awoke. A few big completions to Eric Decker and one Deleon Eskridge run later and it was tied. Fans wanted more.

“It was unbelievable,” said 82 year old John Charles, alumni and long time Gopher supporter who I caught up with in a local restaurant after the game. “The atmosphere was something I’ve never seen before.”

The storybook had a perfect climax. Senior LB Nathan Triplett, who had only one start and 40 tackles entering this year, scooped up a fumble by Air Force QB Tim Jefferson and got 52 yards to enjoy the eruption of the crowd and the Gopher sideline on his way to what proved to be the game winning TD. On the night, Triplett notched 17 tackles and his first career touchdown. He came from having one start to earning National Defensive Player of the Week honors for his heroics, and an eventual Gophers victory.

In the past, the Gophers may have found a way to let this game slip through their fingers. The last 27 years, they have let many opportunities to make something of their program go by the wayside. But they would not make the same mistakes of their predecessors on Saturday night. Fueled by 50,000 of their biggest supporters and a $300 million dollar symbol of what they hope will be a new, successful page in their history, they dug deep and got the job done.

Forget the fact that they didn’t play the most air tight game all around and that the offense was stagnant most of the game. This night was more about the most exciting thing to happen to this program since they won the Rose Bowl 47 years ago. As simple as it sounds, at it’s base, it was about making Gopher football fun again.

“Phenomenal atmosphere for college football,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “They’ve got something here that’s pretty darn neat and really special. I think it’s evident they’ve got a place where they can build something down the road and be a top-20 program.”

From the ground up, that’s where a program starts, with an on campus stadium, and now the program can officially begin again. It may not be USC, Texas, or Oklahoma, but with the way it looked in Minneapolis Saturday, give it time, because now they have the means to get there.

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