Jim Souhan: Blame for offense's collapse falls squarely on Brewster's shoulders

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 22, 2009 - 7:38 AM
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Gophers football coach Tim Brewster complained about a call during Saturday’s 12-0 loss at Iowa. The shutout left the Gophers without an offensive touchdown over their last eight quarters.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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The facts are not the problem. A Minnesota football team finishing 6-6, or 3-5 in the Big Ten, or losing 12-0 to Iowa in Kinnick Stadium -- those facts, the ones that provided a coda to the 2009 regular season, are the norm for this program, not jarring aberrations.

It is not the facts that indict Tim Brewster so much as the manner in which they were compiled.

Most of the men who have coached Gophers football since the glory days have been forced to roll the boulder uphill, battling bad stadiums, talent-poor recruiting bases and organizational torpor.

In terms of offensive football, Brewster had the boulder at the top of the mountain and shoved it over the edge.

In his first two seasons, he employed a renowned offensive coordinator, Mike Dunbar, and a promising and productive quarterback, Adam Weber. The relationship between the crotchety Dunbar and the eager Weber provided the best reason to believe Brewster's program could gain traction, could fulfill the promises Brewster made, especially as the program moved into a beautiful new stadium designed to improve recruiting.

A year after Brewster dismissed Dunbar, scrapped the spread offense and hired Jedd Fisch and Tim Davis to install a pro-style, power-running scheme, the Gophers' offense is a dumpster fire.

Weber spent much of Saturday raising his hands in disbelief or exchanging heated words with Fisch on the sideline. He completed 14 of 40 passes for 153 yards and took five sacks. He hasn't led the offense to a touchdown since the fourth quarter of the Illinois game.

Weber completed 57.5 percent of his passes as a freshman, 62.2 percent as a sophomore, and now 51.6 percent as a junior. Fisch asked Weber to throw a baseball during the offseason; Fisch should have told him not to work on the slider in the dirt.

Saturday, Brewster excused the offensive performance by citing injuries to Eric Decker and Brandon Green and the strength of Iowa's defense. That argument would have sounded stronger if the Gophers' offensive performance against South Dakota State a week earlier hadn't been similarly pathetic.

Brewster has yet to win a Big Ten game in November, and his offense is getting worse by the day. Against Iowa, a limited team that kicked a field goal on its first drive and spent the rest of the game trying to run out the clock, the Gophers took 78 snaps and gained 201 yards. That's 2.6 yards per play.

Their situational play was worse than their statistical profile.

Consider this sequence:

Late in the third quarter. Third-and-1 at the Iowa 34. Fullback Jon Hoese plunges for no gain.

Brewster knows he has to go for the first down; his offense may not travel this deep into Iowa territory again.

Weber jogs off. Running quarterback MarQueis Gray jogs on. Nine Gophers stand in the huddle, waiting for help. Another Gopher finally jogs onto the field. The 10 Gophers line up to run what might be the most important play of the game. Brewster, belatedly realizing that using 10 players on fourth-and-1 is not the kind of offensive innovation he bargained for, calls a timeout.

Finally organized, with a full complement of 11 players, the Gophers line up and ... run Hoese into the line again for no gain, losing possession.

So the Gophers' offensive brain trust required platoon changes and personnel shifts that confused all of the offensive players, and a timeout, to decide to run the fullback into the line again?

Earlier in the game, Brewster had wasted another timeout to set up a fourth-down play. This is coaching malpractice.

Weber argued that Fisch is an excellent offensive coordinator, and that learning the new system will take time.

That would make more sense if Weber -- as a redshirt freshman quarterback adopting a new offense that places great responsibility on the quarterback-- hadn't thrown for more yards, more touchdowns and a higher completion percentage while taking fewer sacks.

Brewster lost a deceptively close game to a ranked team on the road on Saturday, and he will take his team to a second consecutive bowl. Those are the facts that will probably persuade Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi to retain Brewster for at least one more season.

I think that's a mistake. I don't see this program getting dramatically better while Brewster and his hand-picked assistants mismanage the offense, and while the Glen Mason recruits (like Lee Campbell and Eric Decker) who have held this program together depart.

The question I have for Maturi, after eight consecutive quarters without an offensive touchdown, is this:

How can you stand to watch any more?

Jim Souhan can be heard at 10-noon Sunday, and 6:40 a.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday on AM-1500. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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