Tim Brewster had a blunt assessment following the Gophers' stunning 41-38 loss to South Dakota. "I just didn't get the job done," the Minnesota coach said. "I accept the blame."
Brewster won't find much disagreement among Gophers fans -- or at least 99 percent of them -- after an embarrassing loss at home to an FBS team. In fact, Internet sites around the state are already running polls asking if Brewster should be fired.
That's never a good sign, especially after the second game of the season. While the loss itself is disturbing enough, the way it happened is even more troubling. The Gophers took an early 3-0 lead on Eric Ellestad's field goal, but were never ahead again. Minnesota trailed by 11 points twice, first at 14-3 and again 21-10 at halftime. The defense then gave up a 61-yard pass play for a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half.
When the Gophers cut the lead to 34-31 early in the fourth quarter, the defense crumbled again, allowing South Dakota to move down the field again and score on a 36-yard run by quarterback Dante Warren. The Gophers cut the lead to three with a little over three minutes left, but the defense couldn't get the ball back and South Dakota ran out the clock.
How bad was the performance by the defense? South Dakota, which lost at Central Florida, 38-7 in its opener, moved the ball so easily that Warren said the Coyotes offensive players felt they could score whenever they wanted to against the Gophers.
And exactly how Brewster and his coaching staff get the players to put this loss behind them with Southern Cal coming to town next week and a tough Big Ten schedule, including Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa and Wisconsin, ahead, will be a point to watch.
"The depth of my disappointment, you cannot measure it," Brewster said. "I don't want to discredit South Dakota in any way, but it certainly is an unacceptable loss on our part."
Senior quarterback Adam Weber, one of the team's leaders, also offered a harsh assessment about the present state of the football program.
"We didn't live up to our own expectations," he said in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "Everyone's going to have to look at themselves, because games like this should not happen."
--Quarterback Adam Weber threw three touchdown passes against South Dakota, giving him 55 for his career. He's tied with Asad Abdul-Khaliq and Bryan Cupito for most in school history.
--Turnovers were a big problem for Minnesota last season. The Gophers had at least one in every game in 2009, but didn't commit any against Middle Tennessee. That was short lived as Minnesota lost two fumbles -- both by Weber -- against South Dakota.
--Kicker Eric Ellestad continues to be inconsistent. Although his 27-yard field goal gave Minnesota its only lead of the game and he converted all five of his extra points, Ellestad missed a 48-yarder against South Dakota. He also missed kicks of 39 and 40 yards against Middle Tennessee.
GAME BALL GOES TO: RB Duane Bennett -- Since somebody has to win it, Bennett is the man. In fact, he was one of the few Gophers who didn't play poorly in the loss to South Dakota. He had his second straight strong game, gaining 103 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns and a long gain of 25 yards. Bennett picked 187 yards in the opening week win over Middle Tennessee.
KEEP AN EYE ON: WR MarQueis Gray -- After being ignored in the Middle Tennessee State, the coaching staff remebered Gray was on the team against South Dakota. The former quarterback caught nine passes for 91 yards and a touchdown in the loss. Coach Tim Brewster has been talking up Gray's ability and finally gave the multi-talented player a chance to do something on the field.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "What we cannot do is let this one game define us and define our season. We certainly will not allow that to happen. We will give credit where credit is due and we will come back to work." -- Coach Tim Brewster after the Gophers' loss to South Dakota.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: The offensive line is the only part of the team that's actually playing well. The Gophers ran for 203 yards in the loss to South Dakota after picking up 281 yards on the ground in the opener against Middle Tennessee. The running game was a point of emphasis in the offseason and the offensive line has done its job so far.
STILL NEEDS WORK: This one's easy. The defense. The coaching staff knew this would be the team's weak point going into the season with nine new starters. The Gophers have actually had to play with 11 new starters thanks to the absence of strong safety Kim Royston (broken leg) and free safety Kyle Theret (suspension). But getting torched for 446 yards against South Dakota, an FBS team, means inexperience isn't the only problem. Minnesota had no answers for quarterback Dante Warren, who completed 21-of-30 passes for 351 yards, and ran nine times for 83 yards. The defense also struggled against Middle Tennessee despite the fact star quarterback Dwight Dasher was suspended for the game.
--FB Jon Hoese played in Saturday's game despite the fact his father, Terry, passed away earlier in the week. Jon Hoese gained four yards on two carries and caught two passes for 13 yards.
--S Kim Royston has yet to play this season because of a broken left leg. The senior broke both bones in the leg in spring ball.
--S Kyle Theret and OT Dom Alford -- both seniors -- sat out their second straight game. The two are suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. They were also out for the season opener against Middle Tennessee.
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