Scoggins: What we're hearing about Gophers' improvement isn't what we're seeing

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 13, 2012 - 10:01 PM

The notion that this season would be better was spoken but certainly wasn't backed up in two Big Ten failures.

hide

This pass was thrown wide of intended Minnesota receiver A. J. Barker late in the game.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The Gophers proudly proclaimed themselves an improved football team this season. At every chance, they trumpeted a bigger, faster, stronger refrain. Just you wait, they vowed, this year will be different.

Maybe they still believe that internally, but the proof is in the results, and that giddy 4-0 start looks more like fool's gold right now.

On a miserably rainy day, the Gophers' performance mirrored the weather. They bumbled and stumbled and fumbled away a winnable game against a Northwestern team that was ripe for defeat.

The offense undermined itself with a comedy of errors. The defense took a snooze in the first half. And the offensive playcalling and coaching decisions were baffling.

It all added up to a 21-13 loss in front of thousands of empty seats at TCF Bank Stadium in a game that dropped the Gophers to 0-2 in the Big Ten and raised serious doubt about how much improvement they truly have made.

"We have no margin for error," coach Jerry Kill said.

Oh, they erred a lot. Thankfully, though, Kill didn't mention his team's youth as a reason for the litany of mistakes because, frankly, that line is growing old and what happened Saturday shouldn't be pinned on age.

The Gophers helped defeat themselves, which is far worse than just physically getting outplayed by an opponent. Teams can live with that. The Gophers had no excuse for laying an egg. They were at home and refreshed and healthy coming off their bye.

Northwestern, on the other hand, lost a heartbreaker at Penn State last week, was playing its second consecutive road game and does not get its bye for a few more weeks. The Wildcats didn't line up with superior talent or athletes, either. They just took advantage of the Gophers' endless stream of miscues and goofy play calls.

"We killed ourselves," linebacker Keanon Cooper said.

They did so in myriad ways. They actually trailed 11 seconds into the game despite receiving the opening kickoff and playing one down on defense. That was incredible even by Gophers standards.

They fumbled seven times (losing two) and threw one interception. They botched multiple quarterback exchanges and suffered a 17-yard loss when center Zac Epping snapped the ball when MarQueis Gray wasn't looking. And before anyone blames the problems on sloppy conditions, Northwestern played in the rain too and didn't fumble once.

The defense didn't even breathe on Northwestern's Venric Mark on several long runs up the middle in the first half. Granted, the defense settled in and held firm in the second half, but it's hardly worth a pat on the back when an opposing running back churns out 151 yards rushing and two touchdowns on only 11 carries before halftime.

The coaching staff didn't exactly have a stellar showing either. Kill signed off on the most obvious fake field-goal attempt in history after Jordan Wettstein lined up for a 53-yard field goal on fourth-and-11. Predictably, Northwestern snuffed out the trickery. Why not just go for it with the offense in that situation instead?

Offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover had a handful of curious play calls as injuries to Gray and Max Shortell caused a quarterback shuffle. Twice on third-and-13 the Gophers ran the ball, including a quarterback draw. But they passed on third-and-1 in the fourth quarter, which resulted in a Shortell sack.

Weird.

Kill pinned the offensive problems on a lack of "continuity," and that probably won't improve until Gray returns from his latest ankle injury. Forget about that quarterback controversy nonsense. The Gophers need Gray to operate their offense if they have any hope of preventing this season from circling the drain.

The Gophers suddenly find themselves in a dicey spot. The hope and optimism surrounding their undefeated nonconference romp has vanished with back-to-back conference losses. The schedule becomes significantly more difficult now, starting next week at Wisconsin.

The Gophers keep telling us they are improved and better equipped to handle adversity, but those words ring hollow until they actually prove it on the field against Big Ten competition.

Their performance on a dreary Saturday just looked and felt like more of the same.

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Team Irvin 32 FINAL
Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 117 FINAL
Denver 115
Houston 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 87
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
NJIT 72 FINAL
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
UMBC 42
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
UCF 61 FINAL
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
UCLA 57
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you favor the plan for expanded athletic facilities at the U of M?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close