|Minnesota Gophers hit rock bottom in coach Tim Brewster's first season on the job|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 15 November 2007 10:26|
As the Gophers prepare for their final game of Brewster's first season at the helm, those dreams have given way to reality.
Minnesota (1-10, 0-7) has lost nine in a row heading into Saturday's finale against No. 24 Wisconsin. The Gophers' lone victory came in triple overtime against Miami of Ohio and their defense ranks among the worst to ever take the field in Division I.
``I don't think anybody anticipated this, very honestly,'' athletic director Joel Maturi said.
If the Gophers lose to the Badgers, they will go winless in the Big Ten for the first time since 1983 and only the third time in 110 years.
Even the much-maligned Jim Wacker managed to win at least one conference game in each of his five seasons, a tenure that is often referred to as the low point in the program's history.
Any way you look at it, Brewster's first season has been a disaster.
``It's a painful process, but it's one in which we believe 100 percent that we're going to get to where we want to go,'' Brewster said.
He took over for Glen Mason, who was fired after 10 seasons in which he brought the Gophers up out of the Big Ten cellar, but was never able to get the program to the next stage of development.
Tired of trips to the Music City Bowl, and Mason's unwillingness to market the program across the state, Maturi turned to the unknown Brewster, a charismatic, fast-talking career assistant who immediately went into carnival barker mode.
Brewster worked tirelessly in the spring and summer to build support across the state, grabbing attention with his bold promises to return the Gophers to glory.
Ever since they have taken the field, however, it's been one big mess for one of the worst teams in the country.
The offense has been wildly inconsistent in the first season running Mike Dunbar's spread system, a massive step back from a team that under Mason featured one of the best power running games in the nation.
For the first time since 1998, the Gophers will not have a running back gain 1,000 yards. This after becoming the first program in NCAA history to have two backs top that milestone in the same season for three straight years.
The Gophers are dead last in the country in total defense, 115th out of 119 against the pass, 112th against the run and 107th in points allowed.
The defense is giving up 525.5 yards per game, not far off the single-season record of 553 set by Maryland in 1993.
``There was such a change in attitude when the new coaches came in,'' redshirt freshman quarterback Adam Weber said. ``We worked hard in the summer time. We worked hard in the weight room. People were getting stronger. There was a different attitude. I think we all thought it would carry over easily into the games. It didn't.''
Brewster became known as a recruiting guru under Mack Brown at North Carolina and Texas. He played a big role in convincing Vince Young to play for the Longhorns, and now it seems like he has to pull off a similar coup to get things turned around in the Twin Cities.
This miserable season started with a home loss to Bowling Green. The Gophers edged Miami on Sept. 8, but haven't won since, a startling string of losses that include two teams from the division formerly known as I-AA - Florida Atlantic and North Dakota State - and drubbings at the hands of Ohio State, Michigan and Illinois.
``When you don't know how to win, and you haven't done it in a while, it's kind of hard to get that back,'' Weber said.
After each loss, Brewster has crowed about how his kids ``fought till the end'' and ``never gave up,'' but when a Big Ten coach is using those lines after being pushed around by lil' old North Dakota State, something has gone seriously wrong.
``I don't think these kids have quit,'' Maturi said. ``I think these coaches have worked extremely hard and, unfortunately, our results are at this point 1-10. Nobody's happy about it. Coaches aren't. Kids aren't. We're all hurting. It's the hand you're dealt and you have to react to the hand you're dealt.''
A trying season has done nothing to dampen Brewster's spirits or confidence that he can get the job done.
``I love the challenge of recruiting,'' Brewster said. ``I love to recruit against great teams. When I was an assistant coach I loved the challenge of figuring out a way to unlock the key to a young kid and get him to want to be part of your program.''
He better figure it out pretty quick. Another season like this will get that ``Gopher Nation'' he keeps talking about pretty riled up.
``The test is when you are suffering adversity, and boy we're suffering big time,'' Maturi said. ``And how we respond to this is a measure of who we are. And the fact of the matter is we're 1-10 and all we can do is do our best on Saturday. Whatever happens, happens, and when that one's over you get ready for next year.''