EVANSTON, ILL. -- Tim Brewster turned 47 on Saturday. He remains filled with resolve, energy and self-confidence. And one more quality: naiveté.
The first-year Gophers football coach demonstrated this in the wake of his team's 49-48, double-overtime loss to Northwestern in sparsely filled Ryan Stadium.
Brewster walked into a tiny interview room, rubbed his right hand through his hair a couple of times and said: "This is hard, guys."
Come on, birthday boy. Before you take a job, try a little research. All that happened on Saturday is that your Gophers lost after taking a 21-point lead with 6:18 remaining in the third quarter.
Hard? Hogwash. On the list of kick-in-the-shins losses suffered by the Gophers, this one doesn't deserve a blip on the radar screen.
Listen, Tim, your predecessor, Glen Mason, had to digest a much worse loss almost annually, and he learned to simply squint his way through them.
We understand this was a game when Ernie Wheelwright had his greatest day in four seasons with the Gophers. The talent that always has been suspected with this long, fast receiver came bursting out with three touchdowns -- including a diving catch in the right side of an end zone at the end of the first half that was for the ages.
We understand this was a game when safety Dom Barber and linebacker Deon Hightower threw their bodies hell-bent into every skirmish.
We understand this was a game when Amir Pinnix, hobbling on one leg because of a turf toe, pulled a quad in the other as he ran down the sideline -- and limped onward until he had gained 37 yards to Northwestern's 14.
"You have to play with heart in this game," said Pinnix, when asked about it.
We understand there was an 18-minute stretch of the second and third quarters when the Gophers had five possessions, gained 380 yards in 32 plays and scored five touchdowns.
"That's what makes this so difficult," quarterback Adam Weber said. "Everything was working for us. We were so confident."
We understand that Wheelwright was magnificent, and Barber, Hightower and Pinnix were warriors, and Weber had his best game with 430 yards and six touchdowns passing and rushing.
We understand there were many men in a Minnesota uniform who deserved better on this Saturday, but what you have to understand is this, Coach Brewster:
This year's team -- the '07 Gophers, not some pie-in-the-sky collection of hotshot future recruits -- deserved a better effort from their coaching staff on Saturday.
And the main blunder was when the head coach ordered a two-point conversion try at the end of the second overtime.
It was clear that Northwestern had no chance to stop the Gophers from scoring touchdowns in overtime situations. The only reason to go for two at 49-48 was for a new coach to bring some attention on himself -- to get the adulation that always goes with a successful gamble.
Except, the pass failed, and Northwestern was handed a victory over a group of Gophers with considerable physical superiority.