Respectability still requires large steps for Gophers
MINNEAPOLIS — Tim Brewster noted that you can’t win football games if you can’t run and you can’t stop the run.
The University of Minnesota second-year coach should have also noted that you can get embarrassed beyond belief if both of those things go woefully wrong on the same night. That’s what happened Saturday as Brewster’s Gophers escorted out the ghastly Metrodome era with an exclamation mark, losing 55-0 to Iowa.
Wow. What the heck was that?!!?
Wasn’t this the same Minnesota team that had gotten off to a 7-1 start, and had some Gophers fans delirious enough in late October to be talking Rose Bowl?
Wasn’t this the same team that through eight weeks had actually found itself on defense, the success coming after so many years of ineptitude, including having the statistically worst ranked unit in the country last year? In October wins over Indiana and Purdue, they’d given up a total of 13 points, unheard of stinginess from Gophers teams in recent memory.
Wasn’t this the same team whose coach, Tim "Mr. Positivity" Brewster, was actually being touted as Big Ten coach of the year through eight games, and who some Gophers backers feared was in the running to take over at any number of more high-profile programs in the country, including Tennessee?
Well, yes, yes and yes. But then came November, and the cold realities that blew in with it. They were polished off Saturday night by a perfect storm, in this case the worst one of the past two centuries for this Gophers program. Never in the history of Minnesota football had it been dealt a more one-sided conference loss than the one that Iowa laid on it.
"I can’t express the disappointment that I feel over our performance today and in my inability to put a team on the field that could compete," said Brewster, whose team has lost its last four games. "This one is on me. But I don’t think our performance should take away from the improvements that we’ve made this year."
Better, but. . .
Yes, the Gophers’ record is infinitely better than last year’s. They’ve gone from 1-11 to 7-5. They’ve also gone from a team that four times lost by 20 points or more a year ago, to one that was overwhelmed just twice this season, by Michigan and Iowa.
But boy, that final one was something else. Iowa exposed the Gophers as the kind of team it really is. No, the Gophers aren’t 55-0 bad. But what they certainly are is below average and with some glaring weaknesses.
Minnesota’s 60 minutes of football against Iowa — if you want to call it that — made it impossible even for "Mr. Positivity" to spin this one. It was as if the Hawkeyes had held up a magnifying glass to the three most feeble aspects of Minnesota’s attack, and said: "There, get a good look at that."
What had everybody wincing was a Minnesota offensive line filled with undersized and overwhelmed redshirt freshmen; young, undersized Gophers running backs who can’t break a tackle; and a defensive line that for the third time in the last four weeks couldn’t stop the run.
The numbers to back all that up are grotesque. Iowa ran for 222 yards, the Gophers for 7.
Nobody on the wrong side of those stats ever comes close to a victory. Football continues to be played and ruled by the biggest, strongest and fastest guys. Right now, the Gophers have a long way to go in the biggest and strongest departments.
Brewster knows that, and with a 2009 recruiting class that includes three large, talented offensive linemen, as well as a potentially elite running back in 205-pound Hasan Lipscomb of Texas, seems to be doing something about it.
But that doesn’t do much for this year. There is still one more game to endure. The Gophers qualified for a bowl game in late October with a 7-1 record built mostly against lousy non-conference competition. Right now, they might wish they hadn’t.
Pat Ruff is a Post-Bulletin sports writer. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
C3: Game story, summary