Reusse: Defense is the difference with this Gophers football team

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 28, 2014 - 11:49 AM

The decline of Gophers football can be traced to Sept. 20, 1969. The season opener was played on that Saturday night at Arizona State, then a member of the Western Athletic Conference.

The Gophers moved the ball persistently behind the power running of fullback Jim Carter, yet were helpless to stop a passing attack led by ASU’s Joe Spagnola and lost 48-26.

The traditional strengths of Murray Warmath’s teams — running the ball on offense and stopping the run on defense — were not the answer for success after that.

There were seven coaches in the four decades following Warmath: Cal Stoll (1972-78), Joe Salem (1979-83), Lou Holtz (1984-85), John Gutekunst (1986-91), Jim Wacker (1992-96), Glen Mason (1997-2006) and Tim Brewster (2007-10).

Mason stayed the longest and had the closest brush with success, yet in the end he was done in by the same failure that caused the others to not make it here: incompetent defense.

Holtz? Yes, we would have loved it if Lou had stuck around, but he also was 10-12 in two seasons and his final two games were losses to Michigan and Iowa by a combined 79-16.

What was interesting about Mason’s decade was that after his first couple of years this was what we were saying: “The big difference between Mason and previous coaches is that Mason’s teams play defense.’’

Mason and his defensive coordinator, David Gibbs, took the Gophers from 63rd in the nation (368.3 yards allowed per game) in team defense in their first season of 1997, to 22nd in the nation (313.4 yards) in the turnaround season of 1999.

The Gophers were 56th in team defense in 2000, tumbled to 90th in the losing season of 2001, then were 48th in 2002 and 34th in 2003.

They fell back to 75th, allowing 396.7 yards per game, in 2004. Mason ran off Greg Hudson as defensive coordinator and replaced him with David Lockwood.

The folklore is that university President Robert Bruininks and athletic director Joel Maturi decided on a flight home from the 2006 Insight Bowl to fire Mason. They were disgusted by the Gophers blowing a 35-7 lead and losing 44-41 in overtime to Texas Tech — and said to be turned off by Mason’s grousing during the stay in Phoenix.

That’s right. Mason’s Waterloo came in the same location, Sun Devil Stadium, where Murray Warmath’s had started 38 seasons earlier.

Maybe the decision to fire Mason was less impulsive and more studied than suspected. Maybe Maturi took a hard look at the defensive statistics, where the Gophers had fallen to 90th in the nation (412.7 yards per game) in 2005 and to 112th (416 yards per game) in 2006.

The next season was Brew- ster’s first. To confirm how bad the defensive manpower had gotten, the Gophers were 119th (dead last in Division I-A) in team defense at 519 yards per game in 2007.

Why did Mason’s teams stop playing defense? Players, obviously.

The Gophers had defenders such as linemen Greg White, Karon Riley and Darrell Reid, and backs such as Tyrone Carter, Willie Middlebrooks, Eli Ward and Mike Lehan, when success was within reach for Mason.

By the end, they didn’t have defenders who could have reached a quarterback or a receiver if it was flag football.

Jerry Kill’s fourth season starts tonight against pushover Eastern Illinois, and there is hope this finally can be the head coach to turn defense into an asset rather than this program’s mark of futility.

  • related content

  • As season opens, Gophers seek offensive playmakers

    Thursday August 28, 2014

    The Gophers will need offensive playmakers to emerge if they are going to avoid another slump like 2013’s 13-quarter drought that sunk their season.

  • The Call: Gophers vs. Eastern Illinois

    Thursday August 28, 2014

    6 p.m., TCF Bank Stadium • TV: Big Ten Net. • Radio: 107.9-FMLine: No line (FCS opponent) • Series: First meetingBy...

  • Gophers could have several playmakers on defense

    Thursday August 28, 2014

    The Gophers need more offensive playmakers, but don’t forget about their defense.The much-improved unit ranked 25th in the nation in...

  • The Gophers’ defense has playmakers in the secondary. Cornerback Eric Murray is one of them.

  • Glen Mason, with QB Bryan Cupito in the 2006 Insight Bowl, had strong defenses early in his U tenure, but late collapses sealed his fate.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Chicago 17 FINAL
Detroit 34
Philadelphia 33 FINAL
Dallas 10
Seattle 19 FINAL
San Francisco 3
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Chicago 12:00 PM
Boston
Golden State 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Dallas 6:30 PM
Toronto
Milwaukee 6:30 PM
Detroit
New Orleans 6:30 PM
Atlanta
LA Clippers 7:00 PM
Houston
New York 7:00 PM
Oklahoma City
Orlando 7:00 PM
Indiana
Sacramento 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Phoenix 8:00 PM
Denver
Memphis 9:00 PM
Portland
Minnesota 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
NY Rangers 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Chicago 3:00 PM
Anaheim
NY Islanders 4:00 PM
Washington
Winnipeg 6:00 PM
Boston
Montreal 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Detroit 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Carolina 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Vancouver 6:00 PM
Columbus
Ottawa 6:30 PM
Florida
Edmonton 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Minnesota 7:30 PM
Dallas
Tennessee 11:00 AM
Kansas
Eastern Ill 11:00 AM
NC Central
New Orleans 12:00 PM
Texas A&M
Radford 12:30 PM
NC A&T
Butler 1:00 PM
Georgetown
Prairie View 1:30 PM
Brown
Southern U 1:30 PM
Northern Ariz
Santa Clara 1:30 PM
Rhode Island
IUPU-Ft Wayne 2:00 PM
Dartmouth
FIU 2:30 PM
Wright State
Texas-El Paso 2:30 PM
Xavier
Penn State 3:00 PM
Bucknell
James Madison 3:00 PM
Ohio State
Yale 3:00 PM
Providence
Lamar 3:00 PM
Texas Southern
Miss Valley St 3:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
Missouri State 3:00 PM
Alaska-Anchorage
Minnesota 3:30 PM
Georgia
Oklahoma 3:30 PM
Wisconsin
Stephen F Austin 4:00 PM
Austin Peay
Norfolk State 4:00 PM
St Francis-NY
USC Upstate 5:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Middle Tennessee 5:00 PM
Cincinnati
Char Southern 5:00 PM
Florida State
Princeton 5:00 PM
San Diego
Drake 5:00 PM
Valparaiso
Rice 5:15 PM
Washington St
Rider 5:30 PM
Georgia Tech
High Point 6:00 PM
Clemson
Emerson 6:00 PM
Hartford
Savannah State 6:00 PM
Jacksonville St
Monmouth 6:00 PM
Maryland
South Alabama 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
Boise State 6:00 PM
NC State
Vanderbilt 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Gonzaga 6:00 PM
St Johns
Holy Cross 6:00 PM
Syracuse
Bradley 6:00 PM
TCU
Alabama State 6:00 PM
TX-Pan American
Delaware State 6:00 PM
Wake Forest
Tennessee St 6:30 PM
Saint Peters
North Carolina 7:00 PM
Florida
Memphis 7:00 PM
Indiana State
Hofstra 7:00 PM
Jackson State
Samford 7:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Cleveland State 7:00 PM
Marshall
UT Martin 7:00 PM
Nebraska
SE Louisiana 7:00 PM
Tulane
Creighton 7:30 PM
Ole Miss
Murray State 7:30 PM
Portland
North Texas 8:00 PM
Arkansas
UNC Greensboro 8:00 PM
Indiana
Michigan State 8:00 PM
Marquette
Western Mich 8:00 PM
San Jose St
Stetson 8:00 PM
Northern Colorado
Texas-Arlington 8:05 PM
Montana State
Pacific 8:30 PM
Colorado State
Miss State 8:30 PM
Saint Louis
La Salle 8:30 PM
Virginia
North Dakota 9:00 PM
Utah
UCLA 9:30 PM
UAB
Baylor 9:30 PM
Illinois
Long Beach State 10:30 PM
Washington
Mercer 10:59 PM
UC Santa Barbara
LSU 23 FINAL
Texas A&M 17
(6) TCU 48 FINAL
Texas 10
Northern Ill 7 2nd Qtr 15:00
Western Mich 16
Nebraska 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
UCF 12/4/14 6:30 PM
East Carolina
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Michigan 11:00 AM
Washington St
Green Bay 11:00 AM
Georgia Tech
Eastern Kentucky 11:00 AM
Western Carolina
NJIT 11:00 AM
Florida Atlantic
Fordham 12:00 PM
Incarnate Word
Furman 12:00 PM
Florida State
Illinois State 12:00 PM
Miami-Florida
Eastern Michigan 12:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
George Washington 12:00 PM
NC State
Ohio State 12:15 PM
Wichita State
Western Ky 1:00 PM
Tulane
La Salle 1:00 PM
Long Island
Binghamton 1:00 PM
St Johns
UNC-Asheville 1:00 PM
NC Central
North Florida 1:00 PM
UNC-Wilmington
Akron 1:00 PM
Belmont
Miss Valley St 1:00 PM
UMKC
Liberty 1:00 PM
Penn State
Colgate 1:00 PM
(21) Rutgers
Mercer 1:00 PM
Saint Louis
Northeastern 1:30 PM
No Dakota State
(10) Maryland 1:30 PM
James Madison
Villanova 1:30 PM
Arizona State
Tulsa 2:00 PM
Buffalo
Boston College 2:00 PM
Brown
Wyoming 2:00 PM
Iowa State
Weber State 2:00 PM
New Mexico St
Texas Tech 2:15 PM
Purdue
Washington 2:30 PM
Hartford
Fla Gulf Coast 2:30 PM
Clemson
Drake 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
UNC Greensboro 2:30 PM
Navy
(15) Nebraska 3:00 PM
UCLA
Northern Iowa 3:00 PM
Hofstra
Austin Peay 3:00 PM
Southern Miss
(17) Iowa 3:00 PM
Arkansas
Cal-Irvine 3:00 PM
Bowling Green
Samford 3:00 PM
Georgia State
Siena 3:30 PM
Denver
Abilene Christian 3:30 PM
George Mason
Towson 3:30 PM
Rhode Island
Howard 4:00 PM
St Marys-CA
Houston 4:00 PM
Idaho State
IUPUI 4:30 PM
Texas Southern
East Carolina 4:45 PM
Wisconsin
USC 5:00 PM
Sam Houston St
Minnesota 5:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kent State 5:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
Montana 5:00 PM
Princeton
(9) Kentucky 5:00 PM
Oklahoma
Arizona 5:00 PM
FIU
Northern Ky 5:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Stetson 5:00 PM
Marist
American Univ 5:30 PM
Gonzaga
UAB 5:30 PM
Loyola Marymount
Oral Roberts 5:30 PM
NC A&T
Stony Brook 5:30 PM
(8) Duke
TCU 6:00 PM
Colorado State
(5) Stanford 6:00 PM
(11) North Carolina
Monmouth 6:00 PM
Wagner
Portland 6:00 PM
Nevada
Stephen F Austin 6:00 PM
UC-Riverside
Alcorn State 6:00 PM
Rice
Lafayette 6:00 PM
(12) Louisville
Florida 6:00 PM
Georgetown
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Oakland
SE Missouri St 6:05 PM
Southern Ill
Florida A&M 7:00 PM
SMU
Northern Colorado 7:00 PM
Nebraska Omaha
Montana State 7:00 PM
CS-Northridge
(22) Syracuse 7:00 PM
(1) South Carolina
Dartmouth 7:00 PM
Cal Poly
Utah State 7:00 PM
(13) Baylor
Toledo 7:00 PM
Virginia
Christian Brothers 7:05 PM
Arkansas State
South Florida 7:15 PM
Illinois
Coll of Charleston 7:30 PM
(3) Connecticut
Wake Forest 7:30 PM
Charlotte
San Jose St 7:30 PM
(14) California
Central Michigan 8:00 PM
Oregon
Fresno State 8:00 PM
San Diego
Boston U 8:00 PM
New Mexico
Missouri State 8:30 PM
Colorado
Ole Miss 8:30 PM
Utah
Prairie View 8:30 PM
Hawaii
Army 9:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Cincinnati 9:30 PM
Creighton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pm

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Gophers and Vikings do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close