Gophers Need to Rebound Quickly

The Gophers produced a dubious Big Ten record last week, but they can still have their best regular season in a century if they can rebound to win the final three games.

The Gophers don't have long to mourn the fact their Rose Bowl hopes are gone, or that the defense is infamous for surrendering the most rushing yards to a quarterback in Big Ten history.

With three games to play, Minnesota still has a chance at advancing to a New Year's Day bowl. It is still a much better position than last year, when the Gophers were crawling through the paddle line taking beating after beating.

"We're a 7-2 football team with three games left and an opportunity to win all three games," coach Tim Brewster said. "I couldn't be more energized and more optimistic about getting Michigan at home, going on the road to Wisconsin and getting Iowa at home. I feel great about it."

Most years, a stretch of the Wolverines, Badgers and Hawkeyes to close a year might be three-straight losses for Minnesota. Not now. The Gophers opened as nine-point favorites over Michigan, and should be favored against Wisconsin and Iowa, too.

Three wins to close the season would make the Gophers 10-2 and give them their first regular season of double-digit victories since 1905. The only other time the Gophers won 10 games in a season was 2003 under Glen Mason, and that team needed a Sun Bowl victory over Oregon to get to 10.

How 10 victories would impact the bowls remains to be seen. Bowl committees spend a lot of money putting on their games, and in return they like to have fan bases that travel well and spend money in their city. Traditionally, that has not been the Gophers, and that has hurt them.


  • RB Shady Salamon has been slowed recently by a bad back that has been slow to heal.

  • Freshman RB Kevin Whaley will likely take a redshirt this season after spending most of the season recovering from a leg injury.

  • WR Hayo Carpenter and DB Kerry Lewis, both in junior college, committed to the Gophers over the weekend. Carpenter graduated in 2006, then gray-shirted. He will enroll in January and take part in spring drills. Lewis is a three-star recruit from Lancaster, Texas.

    SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The running game has struggled most of the year, and never more than last week, when the Gophers couldn't get into the end zone following a first-and-goal from the 8-yard-line. A precise 92-yard drive came up empty when Joel Monroe missed a 20-yard field goal attempt, a deflating feeling for an offense that relies too heavily on the pass. It probably won't get fixed this year, but an offseason priority will have to be improving the running game, which ranks 94th in the nation.

    SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Allowing a backup quarterback like Mike Kafka of Northwestern to run for 217 yards in a game is inexcusable, and the Gophers know it. The defense doesn't have long to adjust, since red-hot Michigan tailback Brandon Minor is ready to take his turn. Michigan is a disaster offensively, but Minor has rushed for 327 yards and six touchdowns since being inserted into the starting lineup three games ago. The Gophers must do a better job corralling Minor than they did against Kafka, otherwise they'll suffer a similar fate.

    THIS WEEK'S GAME: Michigan at Minnesota, Nov. 8 — Two teams coming off crushing losses, for far different reasons. The Gophers still have plenty to play for, including a 10-win regular season. Michigan watched its 31-year consecutive bowl streak go up in smoke, and is guaranteed to finish with a losing record. It won't get any easier against the Gophers.


  • QB Adam Weber is he among the school leaders in most passing categories and also led the Gophers in rushing last week against Northwestern. That shouldn't be the plan every week, though. He is much too valuable to this offense to be exposed to unnecessary hits.

  • WR Eric Decker blamed himself for the loss last week, since an interception for a possible game-winning touchdown bounced off his hands. But Decker is excused for gritting through on a sprained ankle last week. If he can play, he won't drop many more passes.

  • DB Traye Simmons is the team leader with four interceptions and Minnesota has 26 takeaways. Michigan has 25 turnovers, so QB Steven Threet must beware.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Hopes are growing and expectations are high. That's where we want to be." — QB Adam Weber,

  • Gopher Illustrated Top Stories