• A refresher: The Gophers, favored by eight-and-a-half points against Northern Illinois to open the 2008 season at home, won a nail-biter. They were down 27-24 with 5:22 remaining and were able to go 74-yards on 10-plays and score a touchdown. The score came with just 22 seconds to go, not nearly enough time for the Huskies to do anything and the Gophers won 31-27. Head coach Tim Brewster's bunch went on to win six of their next seven games. The collapse came late.
    It's not too often that I'm the voice of reason, but some of the hostility and vitriol being read at gopherhole.com, among other places, is mind-boggling. Game No. 1 in Syracuse was a cluster (bleep), but before calling for Brewster's head, let the season breathe a bit. That being said, some opinions can and will be formulated because it's one-twelfth of the season.
    Now, Syracuse assistant coach John Anselmo was right. The Gophers were indeed in for a rude awakening. The Gophers' O-line: Horrible. The Gophers' coaches in the first half: Asleep at the wheel and the second half was not a whole lot better (see the timeout taken with 57 seconds left -- way too much time was left on the clock). It would've been easy for QB Adam Weber to curl up in the fetal position, but he played well down the stretch, enabling the Gophers to win.
    The positives:
    The play of QB Adam Weber on the final drive in regulation. It's been noted in this space before that I've got a man-crush on Weber, but how easy would it have been for him to fail miserably? Maybe it's his new throwing style (more 3/4 motion than over the top) , maybe it's the complex system for sending in plays, or maybe it was the terrible blocking by the O-line, but he persevered. Weber went 7/11 and took his team down the field from their own 12-yard line when his team badly needed at least three points. Two of those seven completions came on third down. It took him a while to go away from WR Eric Decker, but he eventually found WR Brandon Green. As difficult as it might be, Weber has to learn to trust his other receiving options.
  • The defense allowing ZERO points in the second half/overtime. It was a joke, watching the cushion the defensive backs were giving the receivers in the first half, but an adjustment was made for the most part (the Mike Williams catch on CB Traye Simmons on 2nd and 16 came with 10-yards of cushion).
  • K Eric Ellestad: He already is better than Joel Monroe. Brewster, foolishly iced him before the tying attempt, but he still nailed it. I understand that there was all sorts of confusion on the 47-yard attempt earlier, but under no circumstance does it make sense to make your kicker think more about his big opportunity. Ellestad then came through in overtime after RB DeLeon Eskridge, for reasons unknown, ran way left on the previous play. That caused Ellestad's attempt to come from the left hash, as opposed to the middle of the field.
  • WRs Decker and Troy Stoudermire. Stoudermire, the best return man in the Big Ten, made his presence felt in that area in the first half. In addition, he threw a great block on RB Duane Bennett's untouched TD run and hauled in a TD himself. After a dominant spring game, Stoudermire appears ready to have a very good year. Decker, not the Illini's Arrelious Benn, is the best receiver in the conference. Even when seeing double teams, he makes tough catch after tough catch. With his skill-set, are we sure Decker doesn't play for Michigan? Can you be that good and only put in 20 hours of supervised work a week?
  • The negatives:
    The O-line: Word from the inside a few days ago was that this unit still needed lots of work. Boy, is that an understatement. Losing LT Matt Stommes for most of the game did coach Tim Davis no favors (how did the TV broadcast never mention that?), but many of the problems of a year ago reared their ugly head. Penalties and a lack of time for the QB by the front five could destroy this team. Stommes being out even for one game could definitely rip them apart. Backup Dominic Alford did his best, but was confused more than once.
  • The coaching from the coordinators: Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, who I think will be efficient, struggled. QB MarQueis Gray deserved some snaps in the third quarter, and not lined up out wide in the Wildcat formation. Maybe that's more on Brewster, but Fisch has a big say in that. Creativity was also lacking in the play calls (see 1/10 on third downs at one point). Defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove took far too long to adjust to the one play the Orange continually ran -- the bubble screen. The defensive backs should've been tighter on the receivers by the middle of the second quarter at the latest. We had to wait until after halftime to see that, but at least we did.
  • Brewster's team committed 10 penalties. A huge problem a year ago, the head coach has to make sure he has a disciplined team. Brewster also could've done a better job of managing his timeouts as laid out above. The substitution patterns also were head-scratchers. DTs Eric Small and Garrett Brown were on the sideline too much for my liking. I get that the Carrier Dome doesn't -- inexplicably -- have air conditioning, but did they get that tired so easily?
  • The inability to make the simple play. Both DE Cedric McKinley and CB Marcus Sherels had easy chances for interceptions, yet dropped the ball. Come next week against a better opponent, Air Force, easy plays like those have to be executed.
  • DE Willie VanDeSteeg will be missed. Can anyone or a combination of guys get to the quarterback? It wasn't seen on Saturday. Brewster was trying to find the right mix. Backups Raymond Henderson, Anthony Jacobs and D.L. Wilhite got plenty of playing time. Among those three and starters McKinley and Barrett Moen, someone will need to emerge.

It's slightly past 5 p.m. CST as I type this and it's already been an eventful college football day. Top-25 Iowa barely got by Northern Iowa at Kinnick. Same goes for the No. 6 Buckeyes at home against Navy. It's a slight cliche, but game one is truly about working out the kinks. We will learn a lot more about the Gophers next Saturday. The Falcons beat Nicholls St. 72-0. Air Force piled up 576 yards of total offense. When you win by that many, and I don't care if it came against Simley high school, you're impressive.
Brewster badly wants a contract extension. This week will show us a lot more if he's deserving of it. What adjustments will be made? As my good buddy Phil Mackey of KFAN Radio pointed out, their national championship hopes are still alive. Are they not on pace to go 13-0? Will they still be on that pace 172 hours from now? It'll be an interesting week on campus.