While driving home from Minnesota’s home opener, I listened to the team’s flagship radio station’s post-game ‘whine line.’ Most of the received calls, as well as texts, could be classified into two types: 1) ’embarassment,’ and 2) who to blame.
If you wasn’t there in person, listened on the Good Neighbor or watched on the Big Ten Network, then you’d know that the 41-38 final score doesn’t come close to indicated the severity South Dakota totally dominated Minnesota from start to finish. Each time U-M came close, which they did on four occasions, outscoring their opponents 28-20 in the second half, the Coyotes virtually dared them to stop them on the proceeding possession, knowing full well that they had the Gophers’ number all day long.
“I didn’t get the job done,” bemoaned U-M Coach Tim Brewster afterwards as he called the second-ever loss to SD, a Division I-AA school, “an unacceptable loss.” His somber, sheepish mood was clearly shared by Gopher fans, most of whom called the station either for his head, his boss Joel Maturi’s head, or even for some, a two-for-one dismissal.
Saturday’s game wasn’t just embarrassing — rather it was a butt-whipping on a David and Goliath scale, except it was more like little David (South Dakota) and tiny Goliath (Minnesota, the Big Ten’s worst team) in action here.
But please Gopher fans, the few of you willing to admit it — I beg you: stop being like Carole King. It’s too late to panic now. Furthermore Saturday’s final result is too soon for firings.
First of all, only a delusive individual would think that Minnesota (1-1) is a Big Ten powerhouse, who can steamroll any team on any given Saturday. They couldn’t do it on a Thursday when the Gophers barely defeated Middle Tennessee State Sept. 2 by a touchdown.
You also can’t do it especially when a coach like Brewster constantly calls his team ‘underdogs’ as he has the last two weeks. (Guess what he’ll say this week, folks.)
How quickly Gopher fans forget last season when Minnesota almost lost to visiting South Dakota State last November. No doubt the South Dakota coaches had that game film air-expressed to them as they prepared for Saturday’s matchup.
The 1-1 Coyotes’ game plan “kept us off-balance” Saturday, admits Brewster as his club’s game plan was a page from the Acme playbook (the one used in the Looney Tunes cartoons).
South Dakota went through the Gophers’ defense, most notably the secondary, like it was Casper standing in front of them. They slipped through tacklers butter-like that all the Coyotes offense missed was popcorn.
Especially Coyotes quarterback Dante Warren, who Michael Vick-ed the Gophers: 352 yards passing, and misfiring only nine times out of 30 attempts, and three touchdowns. He also ran for another 81 yards to lead his club in rushing. “There were missed tackles in the Middle Tennessee game, and missed tackles today,” continues the U-M coach. “We need to do a better job tackling and containing the quarterback.”
Horrible is too good an adjective to accurately describe the Gophers’ defense Saturday: A suggestion might be going back to the basics: see the man, stop the man, hold on to him and knock him down. Nothing fancy. “I got to look if we are asking them to do too much,” admits the coach.
Brewster told reporters after the game that he will do a Siskel and Ebert, “to study the tape and (see) where we made the mistakes, and are they correctable mistakes,” he surmised. No need, really — a thumbs-down already has been entered into the record book.
The only bright spots for Minnesota this game: Duane Bennett had his second 100-plus rushing game in as many games (104 yards on 18 carries), and backup QB MarQueis Gray led U-M with nine catches for 91 yards. “We feel like we need to put the ball in his hands,” notes Brewster on the 6-4 sophomore. (One caller called for Gray as quarterback over current starter Adam Weber — although he completed 21 of 31 passes for 258 yards and three TDs, he also overthrew receivers too much and lost two fumbles — both came after he rushed for a first down.)
Brewster and the Gophers must go back to the drawing board, especially defensively: “I got to look if we are asking them to do too much,” admits the coach.
And even if he is, it’s still too late to panic now. The porous defensive dye now has been cast.
Remember the 84-13 thrashing that Nebraska gave Minnesota at home on September 17, 1983? Well next Saturday, the Division I, have-nothing-left-but-pride-to-play-for Southern Cal comes to town a day after the 27th anniversary of that annihilation.
Therefore, if Gopher fans felt that losing to South Dakota was embarrassing, they better bring paper bags next week. Not because watching the possibility of another thrashing might be hard to watch on a full stomach, but to cover their heads as they leave U-M field afterwards.
“We can’t let South Dakota beat us twice,” noted Brewster when asked how to keep his players from dwelling on the SD loss as they prepare for the Trojans.
That won’t happen, Coach. If the Coyotes easily put up 41 points, then expect Southern Cal to create new holes in the already full-of-holes Gopher ‘D.’
It’s too late to panic now.