Anyone that saw the Gophers' loss to Dayton tonight probably has their stomach in knots after seeing Trevor Mbawke go down with a right knee injury. When I first saw that he was the player on the ground holding his knee, I was just hoping he was banged up a little and would be able to get up in walk it off. As I continued to watch, I knew that was not going to be the case. Mbakwe was helped off the court and could not put any weight on his leg. He began trying to, but you could just see the pain in his face. When you look at the tears, you had to wonder, is he crying because he's in pain, or because he knows this is a season ending injury? Trevor returned to the bench with crutches, and had just buried his face in a towel, so everyone could not see his sadness. Being the consummate teammate, as always, I actually saw him applauding his teammates while being covered in the towel. He only remained on the bench for a short time, and when he left, he crutched over to his teammates to give the high fives and encouraging words. The Gophers did not just lose their best player, and one of the best players in the Big 10, but they lost their leader and the heart of the team. Even off the court, he's tweeted:
"Lord please get me through this"
"Thanks everyone for your prayers. I really appreciate it the support. Tough times don't last but tough ppl do."
"Minor setback for a MAJOR comeback."
This is a guy that is still motivating the team and the fans.
Photo courtesy of the Associated Press/
If you had been on Twitter during this time, you would have guessed that Mbakwe just died, as everyone voiced their well wishes for him and a recovery. I don't think I've ever cared less about the outcome of a game, and more about a player that I did today. It reminded me of when JB Bickerstaff was injured for his senior year, after being injured his junior year as well. However, that doesn't even compare to today. When you look at Mbakwe, he is a man that has been through so many up's and downs in his Gopher and basketball career. He has already been through injury when he was at Marquette his freshman year (on his left kneed that time). He was forced to sit out an entire year when coming to Minnesota, who many think was very unfair, including myself. Now, he returned to the Gophers, passing up the chance of going pro last year, and he could have incurred a season ending injury. Through all this, he has not lost a step. After he sat out for a year, he came back bigger and stronger. He is the leader of the team, and is our most consistent player. He is also on track to graduate next month with his degree. On top of that, he's a dedicated father and boyfriend, who I'm sure, wanted to be able to support his family next year. That’s what makes these even tougher to stomach.
Now what? Well, we wait for the results of his MRI. We can all hope for the best, but expect the worse….that's what I've come accustomed to doing as a Gopher fan. So, what happens if Mbakwe is out for the season? The Mo Walker situation comes into play. How ready is he to come back? I know that sitting him for the season to heal was a good option a few hours ago, but now, if there's anyway we can play, we need him. After Colton Iverson transferred last year, I remember thinking that we were one injury away from being in big trouble, I just never knew how bad it could be if that injury was Mbakwe's.
During the past few years, we've had a lot of incidents that have wounded the Gopher basketball program, from the Jimmy Williams situation to Al Nolen's academic issues and injury, Mbakwe being benched for a season, Royce White, Devron Bostick, and Devoe Joseph's off the court issues, Devoe Joseph and others transferring, the list goes on and on. What this should not be is an excuse. Whether it's self inflicted or not, Gopher fans can't catch a break. Losing your best player should not take you out of the NCAA hunt, nor should it be an excuse. Ask Matt Painter if losing Robbie Hummel two seasons in a row ruined his NCAA chances.
One of our posters on GopherHole had an excellent post regarding Tubby, and if he's got the energy to deal with yet, another issue:
"My question for this group is whether (or not) Tubby has the energy to overcome the loss of Mbakwe (we hope and pray it doesn't get to that). It is certain that if he's gone the season is gone as well. This would mean that four years after arriving, he's back at square one. Rather he's still at square one. He's yet to recruit a single game changing player (with the possible exception of R. White), heck he's not even been able to get the Athletic Dep't to build him the practice facility they promised."
Which is an excellent question to ask. It's not an insult to Tubby, but this is one of the most high stress jobs, and it takes a lot out of you. At best, from seeing this team in the non-conference, they looked like a mediocre Big 10 team. Without Trevor Mbakwe, Tubby will still need to find a way to win with a lot of young players. That will take a great deal of hard work, player development, and excellent in-game coaching.
With that being said, we have no idea what the outcome of Mbawke's MRI will be. He is in the hearts and prayers of all Gopher fans, and Minnesotans in general. Let's just hope this Gopher season isn't over before it's even really had a chance to start.
People always ask me how I've been so dedicated to this Gopher football team for the past 15 years...and I have one response, it's the entire game day experience. I think this is something overlooked at the U, and is incredibly important to the loyalty of fans, because even if the team loses (which has happened a lot in the past few years) you can still have a good game day experience.
I get knocked from being from Wisconsin all the time, but you can take a lesson from Packer and Badger fans, they're loyal. Even when I was growing up and the Packers were one of the worst teams in the nation, there was still a 60 year waiting list to get season tickets, and that's because the game day experience entailed much more than the game, it was an entire day of activities.
My favorite part of game day (until we start winning) is the tailgate. Some people just grab their 12 pack of Natty Light, and call it a tailgate if they're sitting on the back of their pick-up. That does nothing for me. Granted, we're not Notre Dame, but I feel like the Ski-U-Mah lot puts on a pretty good tailgate, and that all starts with great food and drinks, which is what I wanted to share with you.
I always get asked about my recipes, and for great tailgating ones, so I thought I'd share some recipes for you as we embark on our border battle against Wisconsin. Our group divides up the food, so we only have to cook for one game each season. My game is the Badger game, and due to a forecasted chilly day, I decided to go with crockpot cuisine. I will be serving 40-50 people during our 6 hour tailgate.
If I could find the link to recipes, I included them. The recipes that just have ingredients are me just throwing things together. The one thing I will encourage, is to always taste your food. I have a lot of type A friends who only follow a recipe, please don't do that. Trust your taste buds and adjust accordingly!
We're starting with some breakfast burritos, and a simple recipe I received from my fellow tailgaters two weekends ago:
This one's great because you can make it the night before and just wrap each on up in tin foil, and heat them up in the oven while you're getting ready in the morning.
This is so easy, and it's oozy goodness. Serve it with sliced baguettes and crackers:
Chicken Corn Chowder
6 pieces bacon- cut into small pieces (I actually used 10 pieces)
1 tsp. Butter
1 medium onion-diced
2 celery stalks-chopped
2 medium sized red potatoes- diced
1 tsp. Garlic
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
2 TB flour
1 tsp turmeric
4 C corn (use fresh or canned, just be sure to get "crispy" corn w/no sugar added to it. )
1 1/2 C chicken stock (I thought this was too thick, so I added another cup)
1 smoked chicken - cut or pulled to bite sized pieces
1 C white cheddar cheese
1/4 C fresh parsley-chopped
1/2 C cream (I used an entire cup of cream)
1 can corn + liquid in can
Additional yellow cheddar cheese grated for garnish.
In a 12 inch sauté pan cook bacon over medium heat. When crispy remove from pan and place on a paper towel to drain. Add butter to pan, add onion and sauté 5 minutes. Add onion, celery, carrots and potatoes. Sauté until just tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and about 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Stir in flour and turmeric and cook 2-3 minutes. Add 1/2 C of the chicken stock and cook about 1 additional minute while scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits.
Pour mixture into Crock pot vessel. Then add 4 C corn, a pinch of kosher salt and pepper and remaining chicken stock. Stir. Cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3.5 hours.
After cook time, remove lid and use immersion blender to puree 1/3 of soup.* Add smoked chicken, 1 C cheddar cheese, parsley, cream and entire can of corn (including liquid) Turn to high and cook 1 additional hour. Stir, adjust seasoning if needed.
Serve in bowl garnished with bacon and shredded yellow cheddar and a fresh baguette.
Baked Mashed potatoes
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter and set aside.
Cook the potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water until they are very tender, about 15 minutes. Drain; return the potatoes to the same pot and mash well. Mix in the milk and melted butter. Mix in the mozzarella and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Transfer the potatoes to the prepared baking dish. Stir the bread crumbs and remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the mashed potatoes. Recipe can be prepared up to this point 6 hours ahead of time; cover and chill.
Bake, uncovered, until the topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes.
My Mom's cheesy potatoes
Mix everything except corn flakes, makes a 9 by 13 pan (no need to grease pan). Cover with corn flakes. Bake at 350 for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to crock pot if tailgating.
Note - I did use all beef broth and no water. I also used 3 packets of Italian seasoning. I am also serving this with cheese, and grilled peppers. I cut up red, green, orange and yellow peppers and drizzled them with olive oil and salt and pepper, and grilled them.
I break off the ends of my asparagus, and place them into a large Ziploc bag. I then add:
Then I just throw the directly on the grill, so they get that nice flavor. You may lose a few, but it's so good. Be sure to not overcook, no one wants the mushy, you want the crisp.
Pulled Pork Awesomeness
The Mysterious Pulled Pork Recipe
2 onions, sliced thin
2 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs paprika
2 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 (4-6 lb) boneless pork butt or shoulder
¾ cup cider vinegar
4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 ½tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 ½tsp sugar
½ tsp dry mustard
½ tsp garlic salt
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
Place onions in crock-pot. Combine brown sugar, paprika, salt and pepper; rub over roast. Place roast on top of onions.
Combine vinegar, Worcestershire, red pepper flakes, sugar, mustard, garlic salt and cayenne; stir to mix well. Drizzle about 1/3 of vinegar mixture over roast. Cover and refrigerate remaining vinegar mixture.
Cover crock-pot; cook on low 12-14 hours. Drizzle about 1/3 of reserved vinegar mixture over roast during last ½ hour of cooking.
Remove meat and onions; drain. Chop or shred meat and onions. Serve with remaining vinegar mixture.
Note - I actually doubled the amount of spices in the rub, so I could get a nice coating on it. I also let it site with the rub for about an hour first.
Cole slaw to top the Pulled Pork
This is the classic coleslaw used for topping pulled pork sandwiches. The sweetness of the slaw goes perfectly with the tartness of good pulled pork.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Yield: Makes enough for 8 sandwiches
Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate for at least an hour. Place a generous portion on each pulled pork sandwich.
Crockpot Apple Crisp
8 apples peeled and sliced (I recommend these for best taste and crispness: Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Jonathan, Jonagold, Winesap or Pippin)
2 teaspoons of Golden Fig Apple Pie Spice or 1 ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon allspice, and ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¾ cup whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup white sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1 ½ cups Bisquick, divided
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
Butter flavored cooking spray
1. Lightly spray bottom and sides with slow cooker. Toss apples in a large mixing bowl with Apple Pie Spice. Gently spoon apple mixture into slow cooker.
2. In a medium mixing bowl combine milk, softened butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and ½ cup of the Bisquick. Spoon over apples.
3. Combine the remaining Bisquick with the brown sugar. Cut cold butter into Bisquick mixture with a pastry cutter until crumbly. Sprinkle this mixture on top.
4. Cover and cook on low 6 to 7 hours or until apples are soft. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.
It's approaching 4am, and if I wasn't running out of steam, I would also make these easy stuffed mushrooms for an appetizer:
Bacon and Cheddar Stuffed Mushrooms
Alright, time to get a few hours of sleep. I hope my group likes the food I prepared, they are so good to me, and I want to return the favors! Happy tailgating :)
Let me put this disclaimer out there: my thoughts have been formed from watching one—yes one—exhibition game, and they are to be taken as such. These are just my first reactions from the watching tonight’s victory over Bemidji State, and are subject to change as the season goes on. I know my opinions will not be the most popular in Gold Country, but they're honest.
I look at exhibition games like watching Howard Pulley summer basketball. If our players really excel, it's comforting, and makes you a little bit more excited for the season. It’s not meant to be an indication or predicator of a Big 10 championship or Final Four appearance. If you don’t like what you see in the team or players, it is particularly alarming, because if you're not looking good in an exhibition game or at Pulley, how are you going to look against Ohio State? I wouldn’t necessarily say that watching the team tonight was reason to cause alarm, but it was not what I was expecting or wanting to see against a team like Bemidji State. The Gophers probably should have won this game by at least 30 points. Instead, we only maintained a lead of 10 points or less for most of the game, and managed to close the game out with a final score of 71-58. When our starters were in the game, they seemed to have things under control. However, when Tubby began to substitute in some of the bench players, our lead would dwindle. You wouldn’t think you'd have to play Trevor Mbakwe 26 minutes to beat Bemidji State.
The Good: Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson truly played like the leaders of this team. They scored 32 of the 71 points, with Mbakwe alone accounting for 11 of the 45 rebounds. It also should be noted that he made 8 out of his 9 field goal attempts.
The Gophers absolutely crushed Bemidji State on the boards, outrebounding them 45 to 23. This shows a lot of aggressiveness and effort, which is a good sign, but should be taken with a grain of salt given the tremendous size and strength advantage the Gophers enjoyed over Bemidji State.
The Bad: The Gophers' 3 point shooting, or lack thereof. Perhaps the expectations were set too high, after Tubby Smith said this was his best shooting team at Minnesota. I wondered who he was talking about after the graduation of the team’s best shooter, Blake Hoffaber. I am anxious to see who will step up to the plate. There were some nerves that had to get worked out, which may help to explain the 1-7 (14%) shooting from behind the arc. My hope is that those nerves will be shaken off by the time the Gophers start the regular season. Our 3 point shooting was off, but we allowed Bemidji State to get off 25 3-point attempts, of which, they made 10 of them. Perimeter defense will be another area of development for the Gophers.
Perhaps more alarming than the non-existent shooting from behind the arc was the team’s performance at the free throw line. Going 12-19 (63.2%) was worse than the 66% we shot last year that landed us as the 11th ranked free throw shooting team in the Big 10. Our free throw shooting cost us a number of games.
Our overall field goal percentage for players not named Ralph and Trevor was equally concerning. When you take away Mbakwe and Sampson, who went 15-22 (68%), the rest of the team went 14-37 (37%) from field goal range. When you've got a player like Mbakwe, he's not a secret. He's a pre-season all Big 10 player, and teams are going to be preparing for him. Sampson is also a senior, and teams will be prepared to handle Sampson and Mbakwe on the inside. The Gophers are in desperate need of another player to step up and handle some of the scoring load.
The Promising: Andre Hollins. I don't think it's any secret, the Gophers desperately needed a point guard to emerge coming into this year. Al Nolen’s injury, along with the transfer of Devoe Joseph, was devastating to the Gophers last season. This was one of the biggest question marks coming into this year. If we have someone that can step up to the plate, run our offense, and control the tempo of the game, we will be competitive. One game is not going to get me too excited or too down in the dumps, but I will say Hollins was a bright spot. He had 8 assists and 0 turnovers, and chipped in 4 rebounds and 7 points, a pretty impressive 1st game stat line for this true freshman.
Another source of potential excitement is Julian Welch. From all accounts, it appeared that Tubby would have started Welch had he not sprained his ankle. If he is indeed an even a better option than Hollins, this season could look better than I thought.
All in all, I came into tonight hoping to see a team that had shown progress from the disappointing end to last season. I do believe they will do that, and learn and grow as the season goes on. What we do know is there is a lot to work on, but there also seems to be a lot of raw talent. How Tubby develops this talent will dictate whether we’re going dancing in March or having our bubble burst in the NIT.
It's no secret, the Gopher football team is just awful. Die hard Gopher fans know this, casual fans know this, people who couldn't even name one Gopher football player know this, and everyone in the Big 10 knows this. So, it begs the question, who is to blame for this travesty?
The players? I'm not going to sugarcoat things and say that we have a talented team that could go head to head with Wisconsin, or even NDSU. There is a lot of room for improvement, and there should be improvement over the next few years. Jerry Kill is playing a lot of young players, and they have a lot of learning to do - or as they call it "a teaching moment" every time they get reamed out on television. I'm not about to throw the players under the bus, they're just kids, kids that have lost any confidence and have experienced 5 losses in the past 6 weeks.
Tim Brewster? There is no doubt that "Coach Brew" as Gus Johnson kept calling him, did a lot of damage in his four years. Much more than I'm sure the public knows or has seen (including myself). At Jerry Kill's press conference last week, it was mentioned that Kill inherited 22 players that were academically ineligible. He handed over a team that he could only coach to one win last year, after 3 years of touting his excellent recruiting. He had no consistency, he went through more coordinators than I can even remember, and had no discipline with his team. The only thing he consistently did was over promise and under deliver. Quite honestly, I could write a 100 page blog about all the things that Brewster did wrong, but he is not the one that's mostly to blame for the state that we're in. All he did was accept a job he wasn't qualified for in the 1st place.
Jerry Kill? There's already a firejerrykill.com, people calling for his head on GopherHole.com, people that think he should resign after six games. To those people, I say - are you kidding me? Its six games. It has been a miserable six games – don’t get me wrong. A lot of this falls on his shoulders. A team that's well coached will lose to Michigan, not get blown out 58-0. A team that's well prepared will lose by a touchdown or two to Purdue, not 45-17 and have Purdue pick up almost twice as many yards as the Gophers. The bottom line is, coaching needs to improve, bottom line, but that's nothing that Kill doesn't know, and is working his tail on.
That leaves us with one common denominator, the person that was here during these coaches, and the last decade of Gopher football that has led to this – Joel Maturi. I don't know how anyone can put this entire situation on anyone else's shoulders but his. Everything he's done with the football program, he's handled incorrectly. From showing now support to Mason and not extending his contract until after the Music City bowl, to firing him one year later. He likes to do that, extend and then fire, as he did with Brewster, which means more money to pay out, and less money to give the next coach. Then he proceeded to replace Mason, who made the program respectable and competitive, with a coach that never been a coordinator, much less a head coach at the college or pro level. You simply don’t take a mediocre program to the next level by replacing an experienced coach with an unproven one. He said flat out that his neck was on the line with the Brewster hire, but it clearly wasn’t, as there were no ramifications for his choice. He then promised Gold Country that he would fill Brewster’s shoes with a “Tubby Smith” type of hire, meaning a well-known and proven coach with experience at a BCS school. Jerry Kill has certainly won over many of us, but he is not a “Tubby Smith” type of hire. He’s a coach that’s done well everywhere he’s gone, but he’s not the big name hire, and it was also known to Maturi that he experienced health problems. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have been hired because of them, that’s discriminatory, but it’s another things to worry about when you’re already taking a program that felt as if it had hit rock bottom. That seems to be the theme with Gopher fans, you keep on thinking you hit rock bottom, and it’s the lowest the program can go, but it always seems to get worse. Coaches have come and gone, but Maturi has stayed through them, and results don’t seem to be getting better, and I don’t see them getting better until he is replaced.
Coming into the Gophers' first home game, there was so much excitement surrounding the program. We just came off of a very respectable loss at USC, and saw a lot of potential in a number of players. Coach Kill embraced the game day experience and actually got the University to close down Oak Street for what he intended to be the biggest party in Minnesota. It ended up being a sunny, beautiful, hot day - and I know that we had been planning our tailgate for weeks, as many were looking forward to this day. When I left the tailgate lot just to get inside in time for kickoff, the Ski-U-Mah lot was still packed. I was one of the first ones to leave to head over to the Bank. By the time many of my friends got into the game, the Gophers were already down by 7 points. That wasn't exactly the way you want to open up at home, to the New Mexico State Aggies. The majority of Gopher fans thought it would be a blow out, and with their recent track record, it should have been.
There were a number of things that went wrong today, and the first was losing to New Mexico State. Even if you don't look at the USC loss as a moral victory, it was at the least, a respectable loss. The Aggies were one of the 5 worst teams in college football last year, and the Gophers were favored to win this game by a landslide. It also seems like the quarterback controversy is not solved. Gray struggled in the first half, and was then sidelined in the beginning of the second half. There was actually a large crowd applause when it was announced that Max Shortell was going in. During his first play, he ran for 22 yards, and it seemed like he was going to be finishing up the game. He then proceeded to go 2-7 (many of those passes were great, and it was the fault of the receivers that they didn't catch them), and was taken out of the game. Gray went back into the game, and did a good job leading his team. There's no question, that Gray seems to be our most talented athlete, but he may not be a quarterback. Max Shortell is a quarterback. I actually get excited at the idea of McKnight and Gray being Shortell's receivers. That is certainly a position where we are lacking, and without McKnight's 146 yards out of the total 238 receiving yards, we would have been lost. Add another option to the team by putting our best athlete in Gray out there, and you've got two great options. I would also love to see Gray go to the next level, and I see him being able to do that as a receiver, not as a quarterback.
Obviously, the part of the day that went the most wrong was when Coach Kill suffered a seizure on the sidelines. I have to say, I've never quite experienced the emotions I felt this afternoon, and I'm sure most of the fans at the game share my sentiments. Although my seats are across from the Gopher sidelines, none of us could tell exactly who went down at first. I thought it could have been one of the assistant coaches, and when I realized it was Coach Kill, my stomach just tied up in knots. There was absolute silence at TCF Bank Stadium, you'd never imagine a group of 40,000 people could be so quiet. I remember even being able to hear the EMT's walkie-talkie from the 2nd deck. Personally, I was thinking - how much more can one man go through? He's already won the battle with cancer, he's an inspiration to all of us, and now this? I was actually relieved to find out it was a seizure, because from the reactions of the players and other coaches, I thought it could have much worse, like a heart attack.
Of course losing to New Mexico State stinks, ok, it sucks. I am guessing that Coach Kill finds this loss more unacceptable than any of us could. There's really no reason to harp on this, as it's done. Many have compared it to Brewster's loss against South Dakota last year. And yes, it is probably a worse loss on the books than that - however, this is Coach Kill's second game, not his fourth year. People gave Brewster a lot of leeway when he went 1-11 his first year, and he inherited a team that went to a bowl game the previous year. Coach Kill inherited a team that won 3 games last year.
I wish Coach Kill a speedy recovery, and hope that he takes care of himself and his health first and foremost. I have a very good feeling he will have no problem of taking care of the football team. It may not be this year, but in the long-term. This week was the opposite of a moral victory, I think morale is very low. Not just because we lost a game, but because we all feared losing our leader, Coach Kill.