Football coaches like to preach that their teams respect every opponent, and don't look farther ahead than the next game. But players are human, and defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys admitted it Tuesday in making an unusual acknowledgement: The Gophers may have taken New Mexico State too lightly.
"Yeah, I think there's a good possibility that's what happened," Claeys said.
It's partly a product of the information-overload society we live in today, the coach believes.
"It's a struggle every week in college football now," Claeys said. "With all the media and everything, I think kids compare scores. I think they try to make up their mind before the game is played. I believe that."
So when a team widely billed as the worst in Division I comes to town, a small-conference squad with a woeful history and an opening-day loss to Ohio, the Gophers were susceptible to overconfidence, particularly after a confidence-building narrow loss to USC.
"We harp all the time -- it's not who you play, it's how you play," Claeys said. "You've got to go through that process every week. Everybody has scholarships, so everybody has some decent players. You can't blow anybody off."
Particularly when the opponent has a little success early on, the way the Aggies did by scoring on their first drive. You could see their confidence grow by the minute, Claeys said.
"We've been in that situation, playing underdog on the road. The longer that game goes, the more confidence you get out of it," the coordinator said. "I don't think there's any question -- that's part of learning how to win. You've got to go through that process to prepare yourself, no matter who you play or what the score was last week. So that's all part of changing the culture around here."
Little chance of the Gophers -- or their coaches, anyway -- overlooking this week's opponent. Miami of Ohio inflicted a painful loss on Jerry Kill and his staff of assistants at Northern Illinois last December, rallying in the final minute for a 26-21 victory in the Mid-American Conference championship game.