by Agent Deuce
1st Down — Joel Maturi. Defenders of Maturi talk about how he merged the men’s and women’s programs, took over a 30 million plus deficit, and has kept us “violation free”. Can’t deny that. We are talking right now about the revenue producing sports.
Maturi took over in 2002, just in time to witness the ’03 season in which the Gophers finished 10-3, finished 4th in the Big Ten (best finish since 1986), finished #17 overall in college football rankings, and defeated Oregon (yep that Oregon in national title game last year) in the Sun Bowl. It was all down hill from there.
Mason finished up 7-5, 7-5, and then 6-7 in 2006. Fans might remember the Overtime loss to Texas Tech that year in the Insight Bowl. Many felt Mason should have done more, and that his team wasn’t playing hard anymore, so we got rid of him. How bad would Gopher fans desire those 7 win seasons with a Bowl Game now?
Maturi made the decision to hire Tim Brewster after letting Mason go. Brewster had never been a head coach, but was full of energy and promise. He was a seller, trying to sell Gopher fans that we would get to a Rose Bowl and convinced Maturi he would get the better athletes here. Trouble with Brewster was that he was alot of talk and little substance. Many bought into him because after a bad year one of 1-11 and 11th in the conference, the Gophers improved to 7-6 in 2008. Kansas crushed the Gophers in the Insight Bowl, and that was the turning point in the Brewster era. 2008 was also the last winning year for Gopher football. Likely, it will be for quite some time.
After interim coach Jeff Horton won 2 games last year, Maturi decided to hire Jerry Kill. Kill is the exact opposite of Brewster in every way, or so we think. Kill talks softly, but with calculated words. Brewster boasted, Kill doesn’t know how. Kill seems extremely knowledgable about x’s and o’x, and Brewster had those letters missing from his alphabet. Kill has been a head coach before and turned around programs, Brewster had never been and will never turn anything around. But are they that different? More on this later.
The bottom line is that there is a pattern under Maturi’s leadership. The new coach comes in and haves a terrible first year, and slowly builds up to nearly where Mason left it. Then it crumbles again. Why is that? There is alot of answers to that, but the one that matters is that the football program is really hurting, and in nearly 10 years of football under Maturi the Gopher are 55-60 by my count. In last 5 years its worse, 17-35 record. Yikes.
2nd Down — The Spread Offense. We can talk alot about the differences between Kill and Brewster, but one thing that is fairly similar is that both are running a version of the Spread Offense, or the Spread Option Offense to be technical. This offense simply doesn’t work with the personnel the Gophers have, and versus the personnel the other Big Ten teams have. It is just a bad matchup. I understand that Marquis Gray is athletic, but there are other ways. The Spread Offense has been the “hot” and “it” offense for the last 5 or 6 years in college football. Unfortunately, that means teams prepare for it often. Take Michigan for example, they run a hybrid of the Spread Option and a Pro Style Offense. Their defense goes against it each day in practice, but against quicker, faster athletes. Then comes Minnesota’s version of the same offense and Michigan is more than ready.
Jerry Kill needs to adapt. Max Shortell is the qb of the future with the Gophers, or at least it seems, and the Gophers need to set him up for success. In their last game vs Michigan, the Gophers came out and tried running the ball. After two unsuccessful runs out of the spread, it is 3rd and 10. The Gophers send everyone out on a pass route and don’t max protect their qb. He is sacked. The Gophers need to take a look at a program with similar assets, in a similar region, with a similar story. The Gophers need to look at how Wisconsin turned their program around. The answer is a power running game with some great play action passing.
The last piece of the power running game is that it shortens the game and keeps the clock running. Time of possession. Starting winning that battle. Shorten the game. You won’t keep strong offensive teams like Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan, or Ohio State from scoring. The goal is to stop them from scoring as much. They can’t score if they don’t have the ball.
3rd Down — Create an identify on defense. The talk was they were bringing the blitz back to the Gophers defense. In the past, we’ve seen alot of sitting back in zone. Either way, we need an identity. At Nebraska, they have the Blackshirts, which ironically started versus the Gophers in 1964. The 2011 Gophers are averaging one tackaway per game after 5 games this year. That isn’t going to get it done. Must help out your offense and get some turnovers.
4th Down — Discipline. All we hear the day after a terrible Michigan loss is that Brewster really left the cupboard bare. What crap! While it is true we don’t have as much talent as the teams we are playing in the Big Ten, it isn’t the issue. What about all the penalties? Is that talent? Penalties are discipline and coaching. This Gophers team is undisciplined. Only way to say it.
This Gopher program is in trouble. If it doesn’t beat Purdue, it will likely not win a Big Ten game this year. Things don’t look much brighter for next year. This program needs to find its identify on both sides of the ball, and it has to have an upset to provide some hope for the future. Kill needs to get healthy, and lead this program. If he can’t, Maturi will hire the wrong guy again and we’ll have another first year flop of a season by a coach who will be gone in 4 years.