Wednesday, November 14, 2007

B-I-G-S-T-E-P-B-A-C-K-W-A-R-D-S

Have to admit, I was a bit surprised when Minnesota fired Glen Mason after the Gophers' historic bowl collapse last season. Sure, he hadn't gotten them to a New Year's Day bowl game for the first time since 1961 -- 1961! -- but he had significantly upgraded the program. The U's running game was arguably the best in the nation and churned out standout back after standout back, stud lineman after stud lineman. I grudgingly admired their style of offense.

Still, it's hard to argue that the program had sort of plateaued, and the bowl game loss was just a convenient excuse to pull the trigger and get a new guy in here. So it's this Tim Brewster guy - talks a good game, but most new football coaches do. Seems energetic, the kind of guy who would insist people call him "Brew" or "Brewmeister" after just meeting him.

But dude, you've blown much of your credibility in Year One. During a preseason preview of the Gophers on the Big Ten Network, it was revealed to the entire nation (or the other six people who, like me, get the BTN), that the Goofs conclude their huddles with the chant "Big Ten champs Rose Bowl!" Further, my Athlon preseason mag reveals that Brewster took some turf from Pasadena and planted it in their locker room.

Really?

I suppose that if you're the new guy, you have to set the bar high right away, you have to say this kind of stuff. That's what Barry Alvarez did when he took over at Wisconsin, with his "Better get tickets now, because before long you're not going to be able to get them" comment. The Brewster-Alvarez comparison will also hold water if, hopefully, Minnesota finishes the season with one win, like the Badgers did in Barry's first year.

The big difference is, Barry took over for a program that had won six games in three years under Don Morton and ditched a poor offensive system, the veer, for a power game suited for the Wisconsin athletes and atmosphere. Brewster inherited an assembly line that turned out Lawrence Maroney, Marion Barber, Gary Russell, et al, and installed the flag football offense favored by perennial weaklings everywhere, the spread. He brought in the guy who ran Northwestern's finesse offense a couple years ago, for Pete's sake. I'm guessing Gopher fans would rather see Goldy gash Bucky for 400 yards rushing, like they did two years ago, than watch Adam Weber play amateur magician with his ball tricks.

Even so, Minnesota's offense isn't that bad, similar to ours numbers-wise. More importantly, the defense - which always seemed to be the red-headed stepchild under Mason, with the better athletes going to the offense - somehow has gotten even worse. They literally have the worst defense in the country - giving up 525 yards per game, dead last in Division I. They have the third-worst rushing defense (funny - Nebraska is second-worst). They have the worst passing defense. They gave up 42 points to something called Florida Atlantic.

All that being said, I'm not overconfident about Saturday's game, as you might have guessed. Two reasons: 1993, when the Badgers rolled up about 900 yards of offense but Darrell Bevell threw five picks in UW's only loss that magical season; and UNLV earlier this season, in which all of us who were there expected a 40-point Badger win, only to be treated to 58-1/2 minutes of heartburn. One other reason: the spread, although we handled Indiana's pretty well.

Bucky should win Saturday, but I'm willing to give Joel Maturi the benefit of the doubt and project Brewster as a good hire. He has the new stadium coming, which can only help, even if it's half as big as Camp Randall and sot of looks like a minor league baseball stadium. He can only recruit his home state better (love the commitment from Shady Salamon of St. Paul), his wall isn't fully built at the border yet - top wide receiver recruit Michael Floyd has committed to Notre Dame (didn't he verbal to Ohio State?). But if he stop guys like our Blake Sorenson and that Laryngitis guy from Ohio State from leaving, he'll have some talented guys the home folks can get behind.

Also, we're pulling for our old friend Phil Meyer, who did a fantastic job turning around the UW-Oshkosh football program. He's got a lot to live up to as offensive line coach, they've had some good ones there lately. We wish him nothing but the best every other day but Saturday. (Incidentally, Phil's tight with Bevell, who's, uh, struggling with the Vikes.)

So let's go with Badgers 43, Gophers 24 on Saturday, and hope that long-term, Tim Brewster is more Jim Wacker than Barry Alvarez.

7 comments:

Millie said...

Good preview. One thing about the recruiting though. Not only has Brewster failed to totally build a wall around the state right away, he's basically lost 4 of the top 5 in the state. Sam Maresh, a LB from Champlin is going to Minnesota, but he's lost:

Michael Floyd - verbal to Notre Dame (he never committed to Ohio State, but they were in his top five)

Willie Mobley - He hasn't committed yet, but all signs point to him leaving for Ohio State

Brendan Kelly - quick DE who originally verbaled to Minnesota but has recently opened up his recruiting (word is that he's pretty close to UW)

Joe Schafer - big guard from Cretin Derham Hall going to UW

That's a lot of talent to lose out of your state, especially when it doesn't exactly produce a ton of talent on a yearly basis.

mjschwal said...

Hearing Brewster talk throughout the year, I think the biggest difference between him and Alvarez is the level of hubris Brewster spews.

Alvarez was confident but acknowledged that it may take a bit of time. Brewster comes across as delusional. I don't know maybe some are buying it, but he comes across to many as a snake-oil salesman.

As I told Jim, Brewster has no love for Bielema, apparently. Brewster hangs his hat on recruiting and so far, Bielema has beaten him one-on-one. In addition Bielema mada a sports radio talk show appearance (as his normal smug self) which was basically a recruiting pitch. Pretty funny, actually, as he listed the players we've gotten from Minnesota. His quote was "Minnesota's been very good to us." Allegedly, this pissed off Brewster to no end.

Jim Polzin said...

Kelly committed to UW on Thursday night.

Weird story. I'm doing a story on recruiting in Minnesota and figured I'd give him a call. We talked for a while, and he said he was still considering UW, Iowa and Penn State. Then he calls me back about two hours later and said he had committed to UW, but didn't feel it was the right time to tell me earlier in the night.

Nice timing. I can't wait to watch the Bielema/Brewster pregame handshake.

olson said...

I thought this was a great quote from Grampa Sports' column yesterday. It's from Eric Decker, one of the few bright spots from this year's Goophers squad:

What is the attitude of the squad going into the final game of the season, Saturday against Wisconsin?

"It's kind of a mixed feeling right now, there's some guys that feel like they're giving up and already quitting, but there's also a bunch of guys that have pride and love the game," Decker said. "... They want to finish out strong and show that we can still play with anybody and get momentum going into next year."

Speaks for itself.

And speaking of quitting, I went to the Illinois-U game (my brother got four freebies and I took my father-in-law, brother-in-law and nephew).

During pre-game stretching and before the band was out, UNK's bounce-rap hit "Walk It Out" came over the PA. Now the whole Illini team are headbobbing, backslapping, doing all sorts of get fired up football type stuff. Juice is walking up to all the skill guys and linemen, handshakes, all that. I'm thinking this is pretty cool. They look like a real team, loose, but ready to play.

So, I glance over at the Gophers and I swear half of them look like they'd rather go back to the locker room, change and go to the homecoming houseparties.

Needless to say, the Rodents were demolished in the first half and the majority of our section were so dejected they just left. Didn't even bother to boo.

Your 2007 Minnesota Golden Gophers!

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