Rapid Reaction: Gophers Beat Hawkeyes To Retain Floyd Of Rosedale

Floyd isn’t going anywhere.

For the first time since 1998-2000, the Minnesota Gophers will keep Floyd of Rosedale for two consecutive years.

Last year the Gophers won the trophy from the Iowa Hawkeyes in a thrilling 27-24 highlight-of-the-season type game. This year the swine will be staying right where he belongs; in the confines of the University of Minnesota. [Read more…]

Lucky Number 14 For Chicago Bears Devin Hester

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Fourteen was the total number of points the Minnesota Vikings scored on Monday night and it is the number of kickoff and punt return TDs that Chicago Bears Devin Hester has accumulated during his storied career.

The previous record, set by Brian Mitchell, is a major milestone because it requires both explosiveness and longevity. Hester was all over the frozen tundra of TCF Bank Stadium. Specifically, his punt return of 64 yards in the third quarter was an omen for things to come for the former purple people eaters.

With this said, no play was more indicative of the disparity between the quality of play between the two teams than a run near the goal line in the third quarter when Matt Forte dragged would be tacklers for around eight yards before he was finally brought down before reaching pay dirt.

By Patrick Herbert

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Brett Favre is Coming Completely Unraveled

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The selfishness of Brett Favre has come to the forefront this week. His tone has certainly changed once some excrement has hit the fan surrounding him and his Minnesota Vikings teammates. The Jenn Sterger case is progressing briskly at this juncture and NFL executives have made comments that a judgment is quickly on the horizon. The team is out of contention and they have essentially lost the advantage of hosting two home games these past couple weeks.

Favre’s streak of 297 straight starts recently ended at Ford Field. After this loss and no further chance to make the playoffs, Favre has hinted at numbness in his hand and a recently sprained shoulder. The team has implied they will soon place him on the injured reserve list to free up a roster spot.

By Patrick Herbert

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Chicago Bears Don’t Want to Play In Minnesota

After the roof caved in on the Metrodome (and the Vikings season and Brett Favre’s consecutive game streak and Tarvaris Jackson’s days in a Vikings uniform) last Sunday, the Vikings were forced to move a home game against the New York Giants to Ford Field in Detroit. While the venue change wasn’t the reason the Vikings got shellacked it wasn’t exactly a non-factor in the team’s overall flatness.

This week’s Monday Night Football game versus the Chicago Bears was announced to be taking place at least in the same city at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium so the team could enjoy it’s final home game of 2010 at “home” (sort of). But now, the Bears are saying they’d rather not.

By Peter Christian

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The Metrodome Roof Collapses; Minnesotans Lose Their Minds

I saw the reports of the Metrodome’s cave-in yesterday morning as I woke up. I was intrigued, but only because I wanted to see what the structure looked like without the giant teflon roof floating above the concrete structure. I wasn’t overly concerned with the Vikings losing a home game, because for all intensive purposes the Vikings season is over anyhow, and I was even less concerned with where the game against the Giants was going to be played. It wasn’t until my dad called me that I really began to notice the hysteria going on among my fellow Minnesotans.

By Peter Christian

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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.

Tim Brewster’s Third Year Full of Question Marks

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By Mike Gallagher

Tim Brewster did not have big shoes to fill when he stepped into the head-coaching job at the University of Minnesota.  He followed a man that could muster more than eight wins out of his football program just once and never finished higher than fourth in the Big Ten.  A man that consistently let top name talent walk right out of the state of Minnesota to go to any number of legitimate big name programs.  Brewster’s predecessor Glen Mason was not the greatest coach, but he managed to get a lot from a program that could offer very little.

People were very quick to rip Glen Mason left and right when he would produce another 4-4 or 3-5 conference season, but let’s take a minute to see what the man had to work with.  Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind is the Metrodome.  Mason had to lead recruits into a stuffy, cheap, out-of-date, off campus stadium that would consistently draw 40,000 per game in a 60,000 seat tephlon bubble.

Secondly, the University of Minnesota did not have much to offer as far as an academic institution goes.  Only in the last few years has the University been upgrading it’s standards and starting to approach the academic excellence of some of the other Big Ten institutions like Wisconsin and Northwestern.  The ever present concern of weather is one that all coaches will have to face, and Mason suffered for that as they all do.  Anyone working against these odds is faced with the constant challenge of getting top talent into their program, and while he is not blameless for this fact, recruiting was more like a minefield than a stroll on campus.  For all the negatives, Mason still managed to lead the Gophers to 7 bowls in 10 years.

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On the other side of the heavily weighted coin is Tim Brewster’s first 2 seasons in Minnesota.  Brewster has had the advantage since he arrived in Minnesota, of either showing recruits where the stadium would be, showing them the remarkable progress that has been made in the last three years, or, more recently, showing them the finished product.

It’s an immaculate sight, the open air arena will surely sell out for years to come, and you don’t have to walk far to find it, it’s right across the street from Williams Arena, home to Gophers basketball.  The academic element has fallen right into place, with nearly 25,000 students a year being turned away, the U is fast rising within an already strong academic conference.  Brewster also has strong connections in the NFL, which is sure to entice those with pro football dreams, as he was the tight ends coach in San Diego and an assistant head coach in Denver.  On top of all that, Brewster’s mentor is Mack Brown, whom he worked under for 13 years at North Carolina.  Brown, a recruiting giant among men, has since moved on to a beacon of college football excellence, the University of Texas.

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See the contrast in the tools that the two coaches had to work with?  Recruits did, Brewster netted two top 30 recruiting classes and has another on the way to TCF Bank Stadium.  Sure,  the team’s 1-11 year was their first under Brewster and left much to be desired.  But the first year under a new regime can always be thrown out and blame should never be assessed to the new coaching staff for the indiscretions of the previous staff’s holdovers.  After a red hot start to the 2008 season which saw the Gophers at 7-1 and #20 in the Coaches Poll after week 8, they crashed and burned, losing their last 5 games, including a 55-0 drubbing in the regular season finale at home against bitter rival Iowa.

Although the end of last season was a tough learning pill to swallow for Brewster’s club, the positives have to be focused on as much as possible.  They won seven games and made a bowl game in Brewster’s second year.  That’s a long way to come from being 1-11 the year before.

But in order to make that year mean anything, they need to follow it up with an even better 2009 season.  That brings us where we stand today, with the Gophers at a record of 1-0 having beaten the, ahem, “mighty” Orange of Syracuse.  It was a win, yes, and as any coach looking to cover up the obvious flaws within an victory will tell you, that’s all that counts.  As anyone with half a brain and a clear view of reality will tell you, that’s bull.  Syracuse is widely considered the worst team in the worst power conference (the Big East didn’t even manage a team in the preseason top 25) in America.

They had three wins last year and are starting a former Duke point guard as their quarterback.  Their best  weapon in 2008 was RB Curtis Brinkley, who graduated, and they are in the first year of what is sure to be a long and arduous rebuilding process under new coach Doug Marrone.  All that being said, the Gophers looked as if they were picking up right where they left off at the end of last year.  Their running game had one shining moment on Duane Bennett’s touchdown run, but otherwise was non-existent.

The passing game was terrible outside of the most underrated receiver in the country, Eric Decker.  The defense, after getting torched in the first half, made good adjustments in the second half and was the only thing that kept them in it.  If the Gophers were playing any of the other 120 teams in the FBS last Saturday, the Minneapolis media would’ve been mercilessly destroying Brewster and Co. via every platform available.

All this in mind, this is Tim Brewster’s third year.  The general consensus is that the third year is when you’ll really be able to tell if a coach and his system are really going to work out.  Brewster has his system in place and the guys he recruited on the field.  TCF Bank Stadium is opening this Saturday against Air Force in primetime on the Big Ten Network.  This event is supposed to be the thing that turns the page into a new, successful Gopher football era.  All the pieces are in place for this to be a big year for the Gophers and a coming out party for Tim Brewster and his staff.

The Big Ten is a very tough conference year in and year out, and therefore excitement has been tampered a bit by the fact that if you look on the schedule, you have three instant losses (at penn state, at  ohio state, at iowa).  But if Brewster’s squad can manage to win those other 5 conference games (home to Wisconsin, Michigan State, Purdue, Illinois, at Northwestern), that will get you a top five finish in the conference and the season has to be considered a success.  The non-conference game next week against California will be a good one, if the Gophers find a way in that clash, nine wins is within their grasp.

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BUT, if the Gophers produce more porous efforts like the one against Syracuse, it doesn’t matter how many pieces are in place or how many people are at TCF for each game, all the critics that say an 8th place conference finish is in their future will be absolutely right.

Tim Brewster has no excuses this year, eight wins is a perfectly reasonable expectation.  It’s his top 30 recruiting classes, his system, his stadium, his campus, and now it’s on him to put it all in place and have a successful year.  After all, Glen Mason managed eight wins his third year without all of that.

New blood infuses with old as Gophers set to begin season

By Anthony Zilis

The new word for the new year for Minnesota is just that – new.

The team opens a new, open-air TCF Bank Stadium this year, moving from the stuffy Metrodome.

Jedd Fisch takes over as the new offensive coordinator after serving as Broncos wide receivers coach in 2008, while former Nebraska defensive coordinator steps in as co-defensive coordinator for the Golden Gophers. Tim Davis steps in as offensive line coach after holding the same position at Alabama and USC.

“What we’re talking about is some very veteran, experienced coaches, and they’re proven coaches,” head coach Tim Brewster said. “I think Tim Davis is as fine an offensive line coach as there is … Kevin Cosgrove, he’s one of the outstanding defensive coordinators in college football.”

Notre Dame transfer Matt Carufel and tackle Jeff Willis will transform the right side of the offensive line, while top recruit MarQueis Gray should see time at quarterback.

Still, junior quarterback Adam Weber and senior receiver Eric Decker return to bolster an offense for a team that started off 2008 7-1.

“I think Adam is on outstanding player,” head coach Tim Brewster said. “He’s taken every snap for the past two years, and gives us tremendous leadership at the quarterback position.”

Of course, that team also lost its last five games. This Minnesota team has a history of disappointing fans, after finishing a disastrous 2007 1-11.

The Gophers know that they have to change this trend if they want to fill up that brand new stadium.

To turn things around, the Gophers plan on reverting to a power running game, bucking the popular trend of teams converting to spread offenses. The Gophers plan on using fullback Jon Hoese much more, and at 375 and 303 pounds, Willis and Carufel lend themselves to this type of offense.

“I certainly believe under Tim Davis’ guidance we’re going to have a much improved offensive line this season, and we’re going to obviously need to run the ball better,” Brewster said. “With those guys, I think we will.”

A strong offensive line will be important, with youth at the running back position. Sophomores Duane Bennet and DeLeon Eskridge and redshirt freshman Kevin Whaley are all expected to get time at the spot.

Brewster expects all three to contribute to an improved rushing attack

“I would like to play all three of those backs,” Brewster said. “We’ve got a plan for how we’re going to utilize all three, specific plays, that type of thing. Then we’ll see who is feeling it, who is playing the best as we move into the third and fourth quarter, seeing whether or not a guy is really picking up some steam and some confidence and playing well.”

The defense loses only three starters in ’09, but they were big ones. Willie VanDeSteeg was big in the pass rush in ’08 for the Gophers, while linebacker Deon Hightower and the safety Tramaine Brock each finished in the top four in tackles last season.

“It’s going to be tough to fill his shoes,” linebacker Lee Campbell said of VanDeSteeg. “I definitely think we have the guys to do it. We have some great defensive tackles and ends. Overall, I think we have a really good pass rush with our linebackers and defensive backs.“

Still, defensive end Cedric McKinley and tackle Eric Small bolster a defensive line that could be strong, but has very little depth.

The line was impressive in ’08, and could do the same in ’08 discounting injury.

Three seniors, Lee Campbell, Nate Triplett, and Simoni Lawrence make for a veteran starting corps at linebacker.

Seniors Traye Simmons and Marcus Sherels should start at cornerback, while juniors Kyle Theret and Kim Royston will start at safety.

All in all, the Gopher defense will be a very experienced unit when they take the field against Syracuse to open the 2008 season.

Of course, if 2009 is anything like last year, the Gophers’ play at the beginning of the season isn’t the question. What the Gophers need to prove is that they can finish out a season.

Otherwise, administrative heads may roll and the new stadium may be on the empty side.