Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Night Descent to the Fiery Depths of Despair: Pre-Michigan

Probably worth noting upfront that I’m in a foul mood, so I suspect what little hope I had for a positive outcome tomorrow will be ball gagged and flogged by my present demeanor. Sometimes booze just ain’t enough. You’ve been warned.

Ah, Michigan. It seems like every year we go into this game with the faintest glimmer of positivity, that maybe this time we won’t piss ourselves at the sight of the winged helmets. And every year, but for three, in my entire life, the curb stomp happens. Sometimes we lose in heartbreaking fashion (see 03, 20), sometimes we would have been better off forfeiting (hi, 58 – nil!), but most of the time, it’s just a traditional beat down. We’ll look game for a quarter or two, but you always know what’s going to happen: Michigan will make a big play, we’ll fold ourselves neatly into the fetal position and go quietly off into that good night.

I’ve been thinking to myself all week that games like tomorrow’s are the worst. The Wolverines have been our bugaboo for 50 years – but they look beatable. Their offense is in disarray: their line is weak, Gardner has been a turnover machine and they can’t seem to score any points. They have looked pedestrian at best against every FBS opponent they’ve played. Yes, their defense has been sound, particularly against the run; but, as Gopher fans know well, if you can’t score any points, the greatest defense in the country is of limited value.

And while we haven’t exactly been world beaters, we’ve looked better, more consistent than Michigan. Our defense has been solid against both the run and pass in all four non-conference games and our running game last week was as good as it’s ever been. Yes, we haven’t been able to pass, it’s true. But if we can do just enough, find some way to move the ball through the air, make Michigan’s linebackers hesitate for a moment in their run fits, we should be able to score some points. And our defense should be good enough to contain the Wolverine’s impotent offense.

And there it is. The hope. The dream.

All week we’ve seen and heard prognosticators pick the Gophers to win. Some have said to lose this game would be worse than the way we lost to them in 2011. Pointing to Michigan’s deficiencies, they suggest we’ll be able to do enough offensively to punch them in the mouth early, and turn the 100,000 Coke drinking fans against their own team. From there, we play Gophers man ball through 15-play, 75 yard grind-them-to-dust drives and allow our wily defense to shut them down. Game over. The Jug returns to Minnesota.

Dreams are ephemera. Hopes are broken, white-hot coat hangers shoved into your sinuses.

I want to believe. I do. Part of me genuinely does. And that’s what brings the pain. We may very well be a superior team to Michigan right now. Judging by recruiting rankings we are inferior; but we have been much more consistent functioning as a unit, at least offensively. The Wolverines looked grossly overmatched against Notre Dame and Utah and fairly ordinary against a poor Miami of Ohio team. We legitimately could be seen as the better squad.

But history is a savage. And history is smothering my hope with an old, musty pillow. I hear people saying we have a chance, but all I see the specter of the last 50 years. 1966: 49 – 0; 1972: 42 – 0; 1976: 45 – 0; 1985: 48 – 7; 1992: 63 – 13; 2008: 29 – 6; 2013: 42 – 13. These are inescapable truths. The record is bleak. Players graduate, coaches retire or are fired, teams change and evolve. But the constant has been ignominious failure.

Can we win tomorrow? Absolutely. We can win tomorrow and launch the wretched Wolverine money into the aether with his Nebraska-branded cousin. We can win tomorrow and situate ourselves for a 4-0 start to B1G play. We can win tomorrow and likely end Brady Hoke’s tenure at Michigan. We have the players, the coaches and the system to make it happen.

As a fan, though, I may be too damaged to believe. I hope, I always hope. But, throughout my life one Gopher football maxim has generally held true: football is a simple game – 22 men chase a ball around for 60 minutes, and in the end, Michigan always win.*

* Paraphrasing Gary Lineker’s quote about the German national soccer team, of course.

Know Your Enemy Week 5: Michigan Wolverines

Well, we are where we thought we'd be, right?  I mean both of us here at SGH? correctly predicted the winner of each of the first four games and Tuffy Rhodes Scholars, we are not.

Except, of course, all of the death.  The universe is Carl Spackler and he's been blowing up Gophers by the handful.
Sandy: I want you to kill every gopher on the course!  
Carl Spackler: Check me if I'm wrong Sandy, but if I kill all the golfers, they're gonna lock me up and throw away the key...   
Sandy: Gophers, ya great git! The gophers! The little brown furry rodents!  
Carl Spackler: We can do that; we don't even have to have a reason. 
Mitch Leidner and Maxx Williams remain questionable for Saturday, but both have practiced the last couple of days.  Maxx of course would be a great help in the passing game, as anemic as it is.  It would be good to have Mitch back too, but you already know my feelings if you read my post from the other day on Chris Streveler.

What's happening in Michigan these days seems nothing short of implosion.  Brady Hoke's neck is in the noose and at least half of the Big House is willing to pull the lever at this point.  Utah beat them at home.  Notre Dame gave them a little how's-your-father as a send of to that great rivalry.  Their wins have come against Appalachian St and Miami OH.

Michigan is a team divided.  The defense is good, maybe great and features linebackers Jake Ryan and Joe Bolden or Joe Ryan and Jake Bolden...I forget.  These two guys each have twice as many tackles as the #3 tackler on the team.  Defensive ends Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer are also very disruptive.

The offense on the other hand has been very turnover prone.  It's like they all have Daunte Culpepper mini-hands.  Devin Gardner doesn't look the same this year.  He's thrown 6 interceptions and has been sacked 9 times.  He doesn't even run that much anymore, its pretty weird.  Michigan isn't without playmakers though on offense.  Running back Derrick Green has 391 yards rushing in 4 games, which is a pretty big accomplishment when the team is constantly turning the ball over and getting blown out by Utah and the Irish.  Devin Funchess is another in a long line of big time Wolverines wide receivers.

I've heard a lot of internet "experts" and even some of my non Gopher-fan friends picking Minnesota to at least cover in this match-up. has it at 51% picking Minnesota and the points.  Jim Souhan's crazy ass thinks the Gophers will win outright.

Three things probably need to happen for the Gophers to win:

1.  The Gophers are able to run it well despite Michigan's stout front 7.
2.  Michigan's offense continues to sputter and the ball-hawking Gophers continue to screech.
3.  The Gophers complete more passes than those old-timey leather helmet teams.

Speaking of that, check out this smarmy headline: Gophers look to join 21st century, complete multiple passes against Michigan.

Also, if the Gophers have been holding some secret plays in their pocket like many are saying/hoping, now is the week to show some of it.  It would be especially juicy if those plays could involve Michigan snub, Berkley Edwards.

Let's take a look at the Michigan Roster for some All Namers:

Drake Harris/Drake Johnson, WR/RB - recruit all Drake strategy
Freddy Canteen, WR - keeps being forced to be water boy
Jack Wangler, WR - Letter R the difference between pervert and cowboy
Taco Charlton, DE - Fuck yes.
Jake Butt, TE - Subject of my "Gardner finds Butt" caption from a couple weeks ago
Ondre Pipkins, DT - Don't laugh, he's 6'3", 306 lbs

TRE's Prediction

I think all of these narratives that have the general public hankerin' for an upset might play if this game wasn't in the Big House.  Despite Brady Hoke's best efforts, they still have a ton of talent on this team and I'm not ready to write of Devin Gardner after a couple of sucky performances.  You may recall a little game last year where he threw for 235 (13-17) in an absolute stomping of our heroes.  Prove me wrong, Gophers.  Please?  Gophers 13, Michigan 34

Frothy's Prediction

I agree with TRE, as much as it pains me to admit it. I'll write more about this later, probably at length, but Michigan is our nemesis. I'd really like to think we can take advantage of a Michigan squad with a dysfunctional offense and a head coach on the ropes; but the winged helmets have effectively meant auto-defeat for Minnesota for the last 50 years. Hoke might not survive this season, but we won't be able to contribute to his ouster. Gophers 10, Michigan 28

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Time to Get Down with the Blues Streveler

Is that an airplane bottle of Grey Goose in his sock?
Is it time to get on board with Chris Streveler?

Its early, certainly, but I think I may have already seen enough.  Sure, we haven't really seen him throw at all and his only start has come against a San Jose St squad that wasn't ready for the for the crushing running game (again); but aren't you a little excited?

I'll be the first to admit I felt the same exact level of excitement last season when Mitch Leidner romped all over SJSU to the tune of 151 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Leidner even passed the ball better (not exactly well) in that game going 7-12.

However, watching Streveler run the read option was a thing of beauty.  When he saw he could take the edge he just exploded out there like flippin' rocketship.  He's got speed and power and has shown the ability to make good decisions on the run.  He was named co-Big Ten freshman of the week with his 161 yards on the ground and now finds himself 3rd all-time for a Gopher single game rushing by a quarterback.

The passing obviously wasn't anything to write home about, but I have a few thoughts.  First of all, how many times have we all heard the old cliches about getting your quarterback a few completions early to get into the flow of the game?  Especially in big games like the Superbowl you'll hear about getting the quarterback a short completion or two just to ease the nerves.  I imagine Strev's nerves were at about an 11 for this game, and with only throwing the ball 7 times and just twice in the first half, it's hard to expect much at all.

That being said, the deep ball he threw was on target and certainly could have been caught, but the WRs are probably as cold as the QB is on plays like this.  There was another play that looked a little interference-y to me too.  It also seemed to me that Streveler was either making the right reads or his number one targets were getting open, which is good.  His release seemed quick, but a couple of the throws it looked like he threw them a tick too late and by the time the ball got there the receiver was no longer quite as open.  The good news on those types of things is that the arm is there, the release is there, its just getting a feel for the speed on the field.

We've also gotten a heavy dose of Streveler's personality in the past week.  His celebration on a monster run (which my drunken memory believes was called back, but who cares) was epic and he had this to say about it on twitter:

He also was quoted in Marcus Fuller's blog comparing his game against SJSU to Leidner's from a year ago:

“Mitch and I were talking before the game on the similarities,” Streveler said. “I wasn’t really expecting to do anything like that, I was just trying to help the team to be honest. We were more talking about the passing game. I think he had 71 yards (last year vs. San Jose State) I had like seven, so he got me there. The rushing, I got him.”
That's good self-deprecation right there.  CStrevy has the funny.

For all of you saying you can't give up on Mitch Leidner yet, you're right.  However, we've seen much more of him throwing the ball and I'm starting to get a little worried it might not get better.  There's still plenty of time of course and when Mitch gets healthy I'll welcome him back.  For now, I hope Kill resists the urge to bring him back too soon and that his coy comments this week are typical gamesmanship.

When Mitch does return I would support playing both quarterbacks.  Let's keep getting Streveler touches (drives?) and let him be a the spark plug that he's shown to be so far.  All bets are off though if Streveler unleashes some bombs on Michigan in the Big House.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Company Matching for Gopher Athletics Drive

FIRST: This is informational only. Don't take anything here as gospel. This is informational only. Don't come back to me and say that I screwed you out of some tax shelter because I you got bad advice here. I'm not giving advice. This is informational only.

SECOND: Go for details and all of the associated documents.  This site is informational only.

THIRD: This is informational only.

So, as you've no doubt heard, the public phase of the facilities campaign has kicked off with this fantastic site. It looks amazing and I've had facilitiesboner for going on 24 hours now. Anyway, you've probably read all about the splendor elsewhere; the point of this is to talk about fundraising - about which I know nothing. Specifically, I'll be talking about the company match. This is an overlooked aspect of fundraising, but the gist of it is many employers will match their employees contributions to charitable organizations. It just so happens, public colleges and universities are generally classified as such - this includes our beloved U of M.

I'll be listing some of the employers below, so if you happen to work at one and are considering donating to the facilities bonanza, make sure you fill out the necessary paperwork to get your company to match. It could go a long way to getting us to that $190MM mark.

This is informational only. Check with your company, accountant, tax advisor, attorney, God and whomever else before making any financial decision. This is informational only.

Company - Maximum match amount: URL for additional information. Unless otherwise noted, company match ratios are 1-1.

Ameriprise Financial - $2k:

Best Buy - $1k:

Cargill - $2k:

Carlson Companies - $1k: [not available]

Deluxe Corporation - $500:

Donaldson Company - $1k:

Ecolab - $1k: [not available]

General Mills - $5k:

Land O' Lakes - $1k:

Medtronic - $50k(!):

The Mosaic Company - $1k:

Piper Jaffray - $1.5k:

Securian - $2k:

St. Jude Medical - $1k:

Supervalu - $500:

Toro - $1k: [not available]

U.S. Bank - $1k:

Xcel - $2k:

3M - $250?: [lots of divisions - you'll need to figure this one out]

That's all the easy ones. If you've got any to add, holla at your boy!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Saturday's Talkers on Monday or Tuesday: Numerology and Epistemology

Well, you know Gopher football season is in full swing when the fan base has torn up the social contract and formed warring factions. The innertronz has been a rowdy place for the last few days as feuding parties have lobed small-pox ridden posts into opposing camps. The nuclear option for forum managers, the ban-hammer, has been used on posters who push antagonism to its limits. Right or wrong, this is where we end up. More on that in a bit.

Seven passing yards on seven attempts. Damarius Travis had an interception. His jersey number? Seven. Cobb ran for 6.1 yards per carry: 6 + 1 = 7. David Cobb and Chris Streveler were the only two Gophers with offensive yards until the 43rd minute of the game. Cobb got all of his yards on 34 carries. 4 + 3 = 7. The final score was 277. Eerie, right?

Frothy the Seer believes the frequency of the number seven from last Saturday’s game is a positive omen for the team going forward. After reading up on numerology over the last three minutes, I’ve learned that seven is the perfect number and a symbol of divine abundance. Unless the divine is a fan of man boobs, dog farts and gout, this can’t be a bad thing. Further, the number seven suggests positive change and renewal following the completion of a cycle. My training in mysticism tells me we are now fully free from the decade of futility, the malignancy of those one- and three-win seasons burned from our cellular memory. The cycle is done, broken, and, in the words of the immortal Smashmouth, we could all use a little change.

Let’s hope the divine, the noumenal essence of number, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, DJ Khaled, Cerberus, John Galt and/or Sweet Baby Jesus are happy with this incarnation of the Gophers team, because there is a significant percentage of our fans who are not. At all.

Like I said, Gopher Nation has split apart into factions. And I mean faction in the traditional, Madison-esque shit coming straight at you from Federalist 10 sense of the word: “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion.” Now, Madison was referring to political factions, particularly those associated with property, and how a direct democracy or small republic may be unable cope with the vagaries of the human condition. Who cares about such ephemera? We’ve got real-life Gopher football factions!

We’ve got two fairly well-defined camps. While I’m sure neither camp represents a majority of Gopher fans, it makes for a better narrative if you pretend everyone is in one or the other. There is no Dana only Zuul, where we replace “Dana” with “gray area” and “Zuul” with “black or white.” What fun is pumping out opinions if you can’t use the written word to assault straw men and false dichotomies?

The issue at the heart of the disagreement is the offense. Not even sure why I typed that sentence because, if you’re one of the thirteen people who read this, you already know. The positions roughly break down into “shit, we’re fucked” or “settle down, we’re fine.”

We’ll start with the latter, which we’ll refer to going forward as ENJOY THE SEASON (ETS). These peeps are happy that we’re 3 – 1 and don’t understand why people are so angry. We dominated three of our four non-conference games and happened to run into a better team against TCU. While there may be some reservations about the Gophers’ offensive potential come conference play, the maxim here is we’ve done what we needed to do to win. Why do we need to do more than that for people to be happy?

Folks in this camp usually go for the counterpunch. They’ll wait for someone to open a vein about how angry they are that we have no passing game in year four, how the team isn’t any better than it was when Kill took over and how we’ll struggle to win a conference game with a one-dimensional offense, then strike. Their responses are usually pragmatic, if laced with condescension. Suggestions that we wait for nine months, only get 12, maybe 13 games, so it seems silly to be miserable even after winning. Threads about focusing on the positives rather than dwelling on the negative. Practicality is king.

The central premise for ETS is, effectively, that each game is an individual event rather than a progression from one to the next. Consequently, a strong or weak performance in one aspect of one game – or many games – has little to no bearing on how the team will perform in the following weeks. So, to ETS, less is known about the remainder of the schedule than is known. We should have a chance in every game, we have our strengths and weaknesses, as do our opponents. We’ve got good coaches who will figure it out, so let the season play out and savor the process regardless of the outcome. To worry about what will happen next week is akin to being frightened of the boogeyman – it’s merely a manifestation of fear of the unknown.

The offense, then, has had three good games and one poor one. It hasn’t been flashy, but it hasn’t needed to be flashy to get the job done. That we’ve been unable or unwilling to pass is moot – we haven’t needed to pass to win, and to win is the single important objective. Maybe we won’t be able to pass against Michigan and other B1G teams; but we don’t know that yet. Why worry about the monster under your bed when you’re outside on a beautiful summer day?

The other camp, the Oceania to ETS’s Eastasia, we shall refer to as FAHK. While there may be some measure of satisfaction that we’re 3 – 1, at the forefront of this faction’s mind is the Gophers offensive ineptitude. We are one dimensional and will be exposed against better defenses. TCU was a harbinger of the Gophers B1G season, where we go belly up when the running game is stopped. It’s nice to assert our will against lesser opponents, but that part of the season is done and what do we expect to do now?

FAHK is looking at the 2014 season as a repeat of the 2013 season through this point: maul FCS- and non-BCS-conference teams only to get shut down and pantsed against your real competition. Very recent history is on their side and, somehow, they’ll point out, the passing offense appears to have regressed even by last year’s low standards. Generally speaking, FAHK is more assertive in sharing this view and are genuinely piqued when confronted by arguments from ETS. There is dismay that this season is playing out identically to last season and others aren’t acknowledging it. Imagine you and some friends have seen two trains race toward each other on the same track and produce a fiery wreck. Now, some time later, you’re watching two trains on the same track, moving at full bore toward the same point, yet your friends state they don’t believe they will crash. You would have difficulty muting your disbelief. Past performance must be some indication of future result.

Thus, there is an air of certainty, a knowledge, of you will, associated with FAHK’s view on the program. We saw last year’s first five games and we’re suffering from the same pratfalls now as we did then. In fact, we’re objectively worse than we were in 2013 with respect to passing the ball. We played poorly in all four games and only won three because we outclassed them in talent – that won’t be the case going forward. Contrary to ETS, FAHK believes that past games are indicative of where the program is, that history is progressive and directional. FAHK isn’t afraid of the boogeyman. FAHK knows what ETS is calling the boogeyman is really a rabid St. Bernard who will chew your throat out. To suggest otherwise is to deny knowledge to make room for faith in the coaches.

So, who’s right? I’ll use the author’s prerogative, find a third way and say they’re both right and both wrong. I tend to agree with ETS that it’s absolutely worth celebrating any win. Guise, we’re not that far removed from losing to New Mexico State and the University of fucking South Dakota and here we are puling over what is, by any measure, three pretty dominant wins. None were terribly pretty, but we’re doing what decent teams are supposed to do and beating lesser opponents fairly decisively. 

I also think we’ve got more to the offense than we’ve shown thus far, so there’s an element of knowledge that’s missing at this point. Limegrover has shown he can be fairly creative; but only in instances where the game is of particular importance and we need to do things a little differently. None of the games this year have been that important, so we’ve been given the non-flavored gruel and we’ll damn well like it.

But I can’t accept there isn’t any cause for anxiety. This season is shaping up to be identical to 2013, where TCU played the part of last year’s Iowa. If that holds true going forward, this weekend’s game against Michigan will be uncomfortable. There is no way we get to six or seven wins as one dimensional as we are on offense. We are under 50% in completions and have two passing TDs versus five interceptions. We simply have to be further along in the maturity of this offense than we are right now. But we have seen no evidence that’s the case. Perhaps the coaches will open things up against Michigan and we’ll see a more robust passing game. But, again, there is nothing to support the belief that even if we did open things up, we have a quarterback on the roster who can execute it. Frankly, if you’re not a little bit concerned I want some of your Xanax.

So, here we are. Fighting amongst ourselves heading into one of the bigger games of the year. This is a game ripe for the taking, as Michigan is astoundingly weak offensively. They lead the nation in turnovers and we are second in takeaways. Santa Claus meets a greedy child. Hopefully, our friends in ETS are right, the coaches have been holding things back and we’ll run four verts for sixty minutes. Nothing will be held back in this game, so this time next week, we will know who will win our Gopher civil war.

(Frothy's starting word count: 24,241; Finishing word count: 26,018)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Night Descent to the Fiery Depths of Despair - Pre-SJSU

Here we are. Another Friday night, another mountain of booze to drink to take the edge off. Things are still a little raw from last weekend. I mean, even a week later I still feel a little jilted. That’s totally not fair, of course; it’s one game and was probably a couple of standard deviations worse than we’ll play in any game for the rest of the year. But it’s hard to come into this game with a lot of swagger. Hence, the gallon of Bushmills I’ll be consuming tonight. Wheee.

I know nothing about SJSU other than their run defense wasn’t very good last year and David Fales no longer plays for them. I would typically lean on TRE’s astute analysis of this week’s opponent, but he’s been travelling this week and might not get one done. I could fill in, of course, since that’s what friendship in the bloglyfe is all about. But I’m way more about laziness than I am about friendship in the bloglyfe.

Here’s what I’ll say about SJSU: it’s a team we should definitely beat. We let them hang around in the first half last year, basically because Fales was using lasers and satellites and shit to hit his receivers where only they could make the catch. He was spitting fire, man. In the second half, we switched to some radical 3-1-7 defense and basically shut them down. Our offense may not have improved very much, particularly if last week was the benchmark of what we can expect going forward, but our defense is still solid. Since SJSU won’t have a bro on the team as talented as Fales using sorcery and time travel to make throws, we should be able to keep them contained defensively while flaying them with #RUTMs.

Two reasons why I’m confident we’ll win. SJSU has zero Apostrophe in Name Players. None! Do you even recruit SJSU? Also.


Effing Greg Robinson? Really, guise? I’m sure he’s a nice guy and probably throws a hell of a Christmas party, but dude has been anathema in college football for a decade. What the hell was the interview process?

SJSU: “Tell us about a time you were successful as a coach.”

Gerg: “Well, I was a pretty good defensive coordinator in the NFL. I coached the Broncos teams that won those Super Bowls.”

SJSU: “Wow, terrific. That’s great. That was when, again?”

Gerg: “1997 and 1998.”

SJSU: “Oh, okay. What have you done since then?”

Gerg: “Well, I helped Texas get their act together defensively last season under Mack Brown.”

SJSU: “Ah, yes, of course you did. What about in the intervening 15 years? What did you do over that period?”

Gerg: “Well, I was probably singlehandedly responsible for a lot of alcohol consumption and cirrhotic livers  in upstate New York and Michigan.”

SJSU: “Great, hired!””

Again, I’m sure he’s a great dude, but I’d seriously consider Kevin Effing Cosgrove before getting 
Gerg on as my defensive coordinator. Of course, now that I’ve said that, we’ll find out dude has become the Gary Kasparov of defensive minds and will hold us to 67 yards of offense. And then we’ll all wake up Sunday morning in a Gerg-induced haze.

*     *     *

So, it looks like Chris Streveler will get his first start tomorrow. That hasn’t been confirmed, but I’m at a 62% buzz and pretend is way easier at this point. I’m a little excited about it, to be honest. Got a guy I know who coached him in little league baseball who has nothing but great things to say about the kid. Dude is clearly a gamer: he skipped that pass at the end of last week’s game and was clearly beating himself up about it as he walked to the sideline. He seems like the kind of dude who, if he played tennis, would get called for racket abuse after missing shots on the reg. Big fan of people who would abuse their rackets.

Not sure what it is, but I’ve been a fan of his beyond the anecdotes from my buddy and belief that he’d need a dumpster full of tennis rackets to make it through a two-set match. He’s pretty obviously faster than any of our quarterbacks since, Gray (and he may be faster than senior-year Gray, who was pushing 250 at that point) and he can’t possibly be a worse passer than Leidner was last week. He has the makings of a Jordan Lynch-styled run-first-pass-when-you-respect-my-running-game quarterback. Maybe that style of quarterback isn’t what we want, but it’s the style of quarterback we deserve. As MV brilliantly articulated in his latest piece for The Daily Gopher, the Kill regime has failed to either recruit or develop (or both) a quarterback that appropriately fits their scheme. And it’s due to the vacillation between an option-oriented approach and a spread-based framework where passing is more critical to the success of the offense. Two different skillsets from a quarterbacking perspective are required and, until the coaches are set on a philosophy, it’s tough to define what we have at the position.

For my money, Strev is perfect for an option-based attack. He’s fast, appears to make the appropriate reads and is a gritty, tough player (gym rat, coach on the field, heady, etc.). He’s got a quirky throwing motion, but if he’s not operating as a traditional pocket passer, that’s not really the end of the world. I think that’s the sort of offense we’re going with tomorrow and we’ll have a quarterback controversy on our hands going into the Michigan game.

*     *     *

Oh, there’s an elephant in the room? Sweet, blessed injuries. We could field a nine-man roster with dudes currently on the injury report. We would change the name of our team to Minnesota-Bethune-Cockran to make it totally legit, too. Multiple hyphens make everything legit.

Cobber, Maxx, Epping. All dudes who are key to the success of this team, all suffering through some sort of injury. The best thing that could happen to us is to get up by a couple of scores early and get their backups in to make sure they’re healthy for the start of the B1G season. Couple of problems, though: I’m neither sure they’ll even be able to play nor that they’ll be healthy enough to produce at a high enough level to get us into a spot where they can be subbed. A lesser, injured Cobb or Maxx is probably superior to their backup; but playing them while injured risks a more serious injury. It’s just an ugly spot to be in.

The injuries make an anxiety-inducing situation all the more, uh, anxiety inducing. We’re already so, so young and adding more youth opens us up to a lot more negative downside. Frosh and sophomores just have a much higher propensity for eff ups, irrespective of their natural talent. I’ll be hitting it hard at tailgating tomorrow to pre-numb the potential pain.

(Frothy's starting word count: 23,080; Finishing word count: 24,241)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

B1G Recap Week 3: #Gophers Fall on Their Furry Faces Edition

You guys, look how awesome Mayor Royce is...
Frankly, I'd rather turtle up with a bottle of bourbon than talk about the other teams, but I'm pot committed here in week 3.  One quick post-TCU gripe before we get into what happened elsewhere.

We've all heard the overwhelming narrative from the Gopher coaching staff.  It goes something like, "Sure we had some things that we need to fix, but did you see how freaking fast and awesome-o TCU is???  I mean they're very very good and probably should just move straight to the NFL."

This isn't the obligatory, we lost to a good team and we need to do better diatribe; this was more like we're Clay Davis illegally supporting Mayor Royce on his bid for re-election.  Sheeeeeit.  I just don't need us tripping over our dicks congratulating TCU on their way to the national title.  Especially because after SMU this week they get #4 Oklahoma, #7 Baylor and #25 Oklahoma State.  After those 3 games we'll know what TCU is about.  We'll also probably have a good idea how much of last week was our suck vs their OMGsuperawesome.


West Virginia 40, Maryland 37

I watched the bulk of this one and it was fun as hell.  At first it was all Clint Trickett and thw Mountaineers, but Maryland came back from a 22 point deficit to make it a ballgame.  Then some back and forth culminating in a field goal for WVU as time expired to take it.  If you get a chance to watch Clint Trickett play QB, I highly recommend it.  He threw for 511 yards in this one and has 1,224 yards after 3 games.  He threw for 365 yards against Bama, so its no joke.  A lot (460) of those yards go to WR Kevin White, which is about 100 yards more than Leidner has.  /broken record

Maryland QB CJ Brown also recovered from a rough start to have a nice game.  He threw for 241 yards and ran for 161 yards, including a run for a 75 yard score and a pass for a 77 yard score.  

Favorite fan comment:
I hope he's talking about the shotgun formation.

Next week:  @Syracuse
Prediction: Moar points


Indiana 42, Bowling Green 45

James Knapke hit Roger Lewis with 00:19 on the clock to get the win for the Falcons.  Knapke threw the ball 73 times, but only for a 5.4 yards per attempt.  They still had 40 rushing plays and a 100 yard rusher in Travis Greene.  Quick goat math says that's 113 plays on offense for BG.  Wow.  Indiana got more bang for their buck as they had more total yards on 78 plays, but their D was doing them any favors.

For Indiana, Junior RB Tevin Coleman now has 437 yards and 5 TDs in two games.  He's still no Tevin Campbell

Favorite Fan Comment:

Anonymous: Yikes...BGSU look like animated endzone pylons.

Next week:  @ #18 Mizzou
Prediction: Frowny face


Kent State 0, Ohio State 66

One week after TJ Barrett looked like haggis, he comes back and throws 6 TDs against the Golden Flashes.  More like Golden Flushes, amirite?

Favorite Fan Comment:

Joshua: Which is the bigger boost to Ohio State's SOS, pounding Kent St or E. Carolina pounding the team that beat Ohio St?
Next week: Bye week
Prediction: Barrett + Coeds =Beautiful Strong-Armed Babies


Iowa St 20, Iowa 17

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh-hahahaha.  So, for the second half of the Gopher game we went to the bar to numb the pain/watch the bitter end.   As a bonus, this particular bar had the Iowa game on and the audio playing as well.  There were several obnoxious Iowa fans that I got to watch bellow and holler as the Cyclones beat them at home.  It was better than any amount of booze I could consume; but that didn't stop me from giving a strong effort.

Mark Weisman, was unimpressive again with 16 carries for 49 yards.  Maybe he only runs well against the Gophers? 

Favorite Fan Comment:

Rubberhead: I really hope they stop this series, playing ISU is like sticking your face in a pile of crap. Nobody ever wants to play ISU, it doesn't do any good. THey suck, and have ALWAYS sucked. And if they do beat you, then your entire week is a kick in the nuts.

Next week: @Pitt
Prediction: Wannstedt gone, but mustache still haunts locker rooms.


Miami OH 10, Michigan 34

Gardner Finds Butt, Teehee!

Gardner looked solid and the Michigan defense was great, holding Miami OH to 198 yards for the game.  Soph RB Derrick Green had a good game after being completely shut down against Notre Dame.  He more than double his total yards for the year by gaining 170 on the ground.  Sophomore TE Jake Butt had his first 3 catches of the year, one for the TD in the gif above. 

Favorite Fan Comment:

stan b: I wanted to support Coach Hoke, but Blue is not prepared. Let the recruitment for Harbaugh begin. Restore the tradition and pride. Go Blue
Next week: vs Utah
Prediction: Michigan loses, Hoke eats an entire pint of ice cream during the presser and cries.

Illinois 19, Washington 44

Have you noticed how many Shaqs or Shaquilles or other variations of Shaq that are out there now?  Kind of cool if you're Shaq I guess, but it also makes me feel really old.

Anyway, Illinois had 3 turnovers including an interception return for TD by Shaq Thompson.  Illinois QB Wes Lunt was also sacked 4 times in the game.  Meanwhile, Washington QB Cyler was extremely efficient and the Husky running game ground the Illini D into paste.

Favorite Fan Comment:
polly: I was angry that I could not see the illini game - now I do not want to watch this team the rest of the year... cancel the program at Illinois and add basket weaving
Next week: vs Texas State
Prediction: Illinois is favored by 14, but UTSA could shock!  They were relatively close against Navy.


Purdue 14, Notre Dame 30


Next week: vs Southern Illinous
Prediction: Tickets still available!

Penn State 13, Rutgers 10

So much weird.

A Tale of Two Low Scoring Halves

First half:  Rutgers 10, PSU 0
Second half: PSU 13, Rutgers 0

I thought this was going to be a shootout, but sadly it was not so.  Hackenburg and Nova had been stat machines up until this matchup and while Hackenburg had 300 yards, he was unable to get a TD through the air and the run by Belton with less than two minutes remaining was the only Nittany Lion touchdown.  Gary not so Super Nova was even worse.  He was 15-30 passing, sacked 3 times and 5 interceptions. 

Favorite Fan Comment:
Ken:  Gary F*ckup Nova loses another one for Rutgers. LMAO. A senior QB not knowing where the line of scrimmage is, panicking time after time for no reason, throwing 5 interceptions, unable to do anything in the second half - what's so funny is that after a few more of these, the idiot Flood will hold an "open" competition and then solemnly declare that Nova gives them their best chance to win. What a screwed up program.
Next week: vs Southern Illinous
Prediction: Tickets still available!


Nebraska 55, Fresno State 19

 How's this for an all-namer:
Garrett Swanson punted. De'Mornay Pierson-El returned punt for 86 yards (Drew Brown made PAT)
Abdullah was good, Armstrong was good, the defense was pretty good too.  Good all-around game for the Pellinikittehs.

Favorite Fan Comment:
Yep: Nebraska got a wakeup call last week. Plus Fresno has one of the worst defenses in the country. 59-24 is my prediction.
Guy almost nails it!

Next week: vs Miami (does |__| fingers)
Prediction: Nebraska favored and now #24.  This is a good test.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Saturday's Talkers on Monday or Tuesday: Post-TCU

We covered a lot of what I would typically say in our Saturday’s Talkers on Monday or Tuesday piece in the “Catharsis” blog on Sunday. Nevertheless, there’s been a great deal of chatter about the Gophers over the last few days. That’s not the slightest bit surprising, since their performance didn’t exactly engender a lot of goodwill. Frankly, I’m still not sure what to make up Saturday’s game. There was an awful lot that went wrong, not a lot that went right and I, like many of you, are kind of stuck in a swirl of negativity.

I guess two related things stand out for me. First, as I said in the Sunday piece, I really think TCU’s defense is pretty good. If we work under that assumption, that TCU’s defense is say, ranked in the top ten or 15 in the country, then a lot of our anxiety associated with our offense of performance is mitigated. We’re a good team, certainly better than a couple of years ago, maybe or maybe not better than last year, but we’re not yet good enough to compete with a top 10 defense. We saw it last year against Wisconsin and Michigan State: we just don’t yet have the power up front to run the ball against elite defenses and our passing game is too unrefined to crack that nut yet. I thought we’d be improved this season, meaning we’d have a better chance to move the ball against an elite defense, but that clearly wasn’t the case on Saturday.

Now, I think it’s totally fair question to ask whether that’s appropriate in year four of the Kill regime, and that’s the second thing that stood out to me: the total lack of imagination on offense. As we come to expect over the last three seasons, about 70% of our offense is runs up the middle (#RUTM). That’s fine, it’s irritating, highly, highly irritating, but I get it. Our bread and butter is going to be exerting our will on opposing defenses, and the most effective way to do that is to piss pound the other team through the A gaps. But, in instances like Saturday, where we have absolutely no success doing that over an extended period of play, maybe let’s try something else. Maybe try and test the edges of the defense. Maybe a sweep, maybe a bubble screen to Berkeley or Jones, anything. I know the TCU’s defense was fast, remember were assuming that they’re a top 10 or 15 defense in the country. Hell, you wouldn’t even need to run a sweep; just fake the damn thing. Something, anything, to stretch the defense laterally.

So, yeah, that’s what I think. There is an irrational part of me, a part that I usually try to smother with a pillow in its sleep, the one I try to drink away on weekends, that has this awful, awful theory. Maybe we didn’t bust out the whole playbook again. Maybe we saw TCU on tape, realized that they were far , far superior to what we would be able to manage, given the circumstances and decided to hold our cards for another day. Maybe we didn’t test the edges because we don’t want to give too much away. Maybe we didn’t think the jet sweep to stretch the defense because we’re holding it back for a game where we have a better chance to win. Maybe we assumed this was a loss and played it as such.

Yeah, yeah it’s absurd. That theory doesn’t explain the piss poor performance of the line. That doesn’t explain the inability of our wide receivers to consistently get separation from TCU’s defensive backs. That doesn’t account for our quarterback’s inability to recognize and connect with our receivers when they did manage to get open. The chances are much greater that we just kind of sucked. It could have been injuries across the offense of line, it could’ve been nerves associated with this year’s first road game, it could’ve been just a lack of execution with no real explanation. Regardless, it’s a moribund time for the program when a hypothesis that we didn’t even try is preferable to the reality where we probably gave it our all. That first loss of the year always cuts the deepest, doesn’t it?

*     *    *

I’ve done a pretty good job of culling the Twitter herd over the last couple of years. That’s not to say that you should be offended if I don’t follow you; believe me, it’s a me problem, not a you problem. I have a difficult enough time managing my own sanity throughout the course of the Gopher football season without having to contend with some of the outrageous slings and arrows you all throw the program. I love you all, very dearly; but the bipolar tendencies of the media, and more often than not our own fans, are just a bit too much at times. Most times, as a matter of fact.

Case in point are what I really hope to be a very tiny, yet extraordinarily vocal contingent who began calling for the firing of Jerry Kill after the TCU game. Yes it was a frustrating game, the team, frankly, looked terrible, but it’s absurd to consider firing anyone after one game, no matter how bad it was. We’re but one season removed from a .500 conference record, the best we’ve done in a decade. We won four consecutive conference games for the first time in my life, and I’m probably closer to death than I am birth. The defense is the best it’s been in 15 years and there’s seemingly talent there to keep it going for at least another couple.

Yes, the offense has been uninspiring and the offensive line hasn’t developed quite as quickly as we’d all hoped. But, whoever you are that has totally given up faith in the Kill regime, you need to disabuse yourself of the notion that the answer is always hitting the reset button and starting over. A bad game does not necessarily portend a bad season. Hell, even if this season turns into a never-ending tire fire, a Fukushima-styled eruption of spent nuclear fuel and glowing maroon ash, Kill still ain’t getting fired. Maybe, maybe, if the season goes completely sideways we could see a change in personnel on Kill’s staff; but that’s much more likely to be a reassignment of personnel than a firing of one of his existing coaches and replacement by an external hire.

We were an absolute embarrassment of a program for the better part of five years in the late 00s and early 10s. We have finally reached some measure of stability and respectability as a program. Maybe it’s all part of the terrible ruse, where we slowly get better over three years, enjoy our best season in a decade and then fall off the face of the earth. It’s possible. Though, again, there’s nothing in Kill’s history to suggest that will happen. Will he ever win the big game and get us to the Rose Bowl? Truthfully, there’s nothing in his history to suggest he’ll do that either.

But it’s his fourth season and we’re coming off of a year where we did quite a few things we hadn’t done in a while. Maybe take a step back and let things play out a bit. We won’t ever get to where we all want to go if our first move after a setback, temporary or permanent, is to grab the torches and pitchforks and call for purity through bloodletting.

If it all goes to shit in two years, I promise I’ll be the first one offering a mea culpa and metaphorically opening my own veins as penance. So shut up for now, please. 

(Frothy's starting word count: 21,771; Finishing word count: 23,080)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Catharsis: Post-TCU

Well, that certainly wasn’t the game we were all hoping for. I figured we'd probably lose, but I was really surprised with the way it all went down. Maybe that’s a mistake on my part, certainly the first two games offered no indication that we would have any semblance of a balanced offense. But, I figured it given the inferior opposition we were up against in Eastern Illinois and Middle Tennessee State there was at least a chance, maybe a good chance, that we were holding the bulk of our playbook back. As I had been saying all week, one of two things was going to happen: either we had some pretty decent cards and were holding them uber close to the vest going into the TCU game or we were spectacularly limited with respect to offensive diversity and would explode in a blinding hot flash of ineptitude. Pretty safe to say the latter came to pass yesterday.

It wasn’t that we lost, it was the way that we lost. I certainly fall on the optimistic side of the spectrum, and even I didn’t hold out a great deal of hope that we were going to win the game yesterday. Despite TCU’s 4-8 record last season, I think they’re pretty good team. They’re loaded with upperclassman on defense, talented upperclassman too, and in today’s college football world that’s going to win you a lot of games by itself. They were limited offensively, but given our complete inability to move the ball their offense really didn’t need to do too much. In the instances where they weren’t given a short field, our defense was typically able to keep them off the scoreboard. Unfortunately, through turnovers and poor special teams play, that wasn’t the case very often.

I just didn’t expect in year four of Jerry Kill’s program we’d lose games in the manner in which we lost this one. Through the first half of the game there were literally no positives to take away. Our offensive line failed to generate any meaningful push, our quarterback play was beyond terrible, we couldn’t hold onto the ball, our special teams was poor and our play calling, at least on the offensive side, was remarkably uninspired. In short, this was Iowa 2013 revisited. (It’s all a little hazy, but if my memory serves me right, I pretty much quit the team after that loss. There’s no danger of that happening right now, though it may be better for my psychological health. I’m upset, but I’m not irate.) Following that loss, the collective Gopher spirit was as broken as it had been since Tim Brewster was canned. Many, including myself, were having a great deal of difficulty finding another win on the schedule. I don’t believe we’re quite at those levels of despair right now, but I definitely have my concerned pants on.

This was a bad loss, a really bad loss. But I don’t think we’ll know quite how bad it was until we’ve seen TCU play a few more games. If TCU’s defense plays as well over the coming weeks as they played against us, they may legitimately be a very good team. By with what they showed yesterday their defensive line and linebackers are more than capable of stopping the run. They are fast, make good reads, and don’t commit a lot of errors. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility, that TCU’s defense will be the best we’ll see all season. Certainly, Ohio State will have something to say about that, but I haven’t seen much from our Big Ten competition to suggest that any are defensively elite. If TCU competes for the Big 12 title, or is at least in the conversation a few weeks into the conference slate, then we can conclude that this loss, maybe, wasn’t as bad as it feels today. We may find that we are a decent to good team, and TCU is a good to great team.

This is certainly grabbing at the most optimistic of straws. We will have had a chance to see our Gophers play a few times before we know whether TCU is an elite team. If we lose to San Jose State next weekend, get smoked by Michigan the following week or lose either of the next two games after Michigan (Northwestern and Purdue, both at home), we’ll know that we’re probably not even decent team. Frankly, we just have to hope that yesterday was an aberration. If we are truly as limited as we saw yesterday with respect to passing the ball, it’s tough to see us getting to six wins this season. Yes, TCU may have an elite defense; but we weren’t even close to producing anything through the air. Elite defenses don’t make you consistently throw the ball a full three feet from where you should be placing it (sure, a quarterback will be pressured and under that pressure miss his spot; but there weren’t more than three or four passes in the entire day yesterday that were on target - that’s more on the quarterback’s abilities then it is the quality of the defense). Further, there were at least two instances yesterday were one of our wide receivers was left wide open and the quarterback failed to identify him. If that’s going to be the modus operandi of our quarterbacks, then let’s just wander collectively up to Duluth and be consumed by the cold depths of Lake Superior.

For those who keep track of such things, yes, I was wrong. I genuinely thought that the Gophers had figured out a way to cure the offensive diseases they had last year. I watched Leidner in the open practices and it really looked like he knew what he was doing. He was poised, he checked down on occasion, he made the appropriate reads. I thought he played well at times last season, and with those incremental improvements he would be a middle of the pack Big Ten quarterback. While that still may be the case, we have seen absolutely nothing to suggest that’s what will happen. And today we learned that he now has a broken foot and his availability over the next few weeks is in question.
Now it’s up to Chris Streveler. I saw him in practice too, and he didn’t look as good as Mitch. While he appears to be super athletic I didn’t get the sense that he had a firm grasp of the offense at this point. No shame in that, he’s only been in the program for one season. About all that we can hope for, is that he’s a gamer whose best doesn’t come out in the practice environment (cue Allen Iverson). He’s certainly fast, so when he pulls the ball down and runs his speed can be a difference maker.

But we don’t run the triple option, we need our quarterbacks to throw the ball, preferably on target. Even yesterday, he would take his drop, look for a second or two, pull the ball down and run. Basically meaning that if his first receiver wasn’t open he wasn’t going to hang around and check down. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, though it obviously isn’t ideal – again, we need our quarterbacks to actually throw the ball. But the next option on the bench is probably Jacques Perra, a walk-on true freshman. If Streveler is consistently running with the ball, it’s only a matter of time until he gets hurt. I don’t know about you, but I’m not the slightest bit comfortable with trusting the offense to a true freshman quarterback. He might be the greatest quarterback in the Big Ten, who knows? But he’s had all of about seven weeks of the program, and almost certainly is limited in terms of his understanding of the offense.

So, there we are. We got our first loss out of the way in the typical Gophers nuclear holocaust style. I’d say our chances of winning the national championship, or even qualifying for the playoffs, are probably pretty limited right now. But we already knew that. We’re now back in the business of buying hope. Hoping that we see an offensive of renaissance similar to what we saw against Nebraska last year. Hoping that the true and redshirt freshman who now, frighteningly, comprise a fairly significant percentage of our two deeps, can stay fit and healthy and relatively free of mental breakdowns. Hoping that somehow, some way, we can take advantage of this historically bad Big Ten conference, and make some noise until late November.

This was one game. A bad, bad game, but only one game. It shouldn’t define the rest of the season. Here’s to hoping it won’t.

(Frothy's starting word count: 20,313; Finishing word count: 21,771)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Night Descent to the Fiery Depths of Despair: Pre-TCU

So, how about all those freshmen players this season, eh? We’re two weeks into the 2014 campaign, so it’s time to check back on how accurate our crystal ball is with respect to predicting the playing time given to true freshmen. Now, typically, we might wait a little later in the season to bust this feature out. But since the gods of the anterior cruciate have taken it upon themselves to remove half the ligaments from our team, our fresh-faced 18-year-old friends have been getting some pretty significant minutes. While I’m not sure if this is something that should concern us greatly at this point, my recommendation is to drink until it’s not numb anyway.

My gut feeling is that if a player hasn’t logged any minutes prior to the start of the B1G campaign, he probably won’t get in. Now while that’s certainly subject to change based on injuries and such, it seems to be a pretty good rule of thumb. Of course, I recognize that one could point to Philip Nelson (this is the second post in a row where I’ve mentioned Nelson, I really need to and that streak now) who got his first start against Wisconsin, at Camp Randall, two years ago. So, yeah, it certainly is beyond the realm of possibility. However, I think it’s pretty unlikely.

When I wrote my freshman players intro for the season, I predicted nine true freshmen would see the field this year. Eight have played thus far (/flexes), though I may have been off in terms of who those players were (/sad trombone). I had Gaelin Elmore and Steven Richardson playing along the defensive line getting some time with that group; I figured Melvin Holland and Isaiah gentry were shoo-ins to get some time at wide receiver this season; and, as a freshman defensive back, Craig James was essentially assured of getting on the field in some capacity. Additionally, I had four players who I expected would get some time on special teams is true freshmen: Andrew Stelter, Brandon Lingen, and linebackers Jonathan Celestine and Everett Williams. I thought it was possible that any of these four could have gotten some time at their positions, particularly in mop up duty in games where we were winning big; but with the depth in front of them, 

So, how did we do? Well we were right with Gaelin Elmore and Stephen Richardson. With the Scott Ekpe injury Stephen Richardson is taking over the starting role which, while surprising, wasn’t totally unexpected (and I might have said that he would get a start toward the end of the season, so I’m claiming it as a win). Craig James is logging quality minutes at cornerback, so I’ll take that as a win as well. As regards the wide receivers not so much: neither Melvin Holland nor Isaiah Gentry have played which, to me, is particularly surprising given the absence of Drew Wolitarsky. I figured it was a foregone conclusion that one, probably Holland, would have played when it was revealed that Drew would be out for the first game. That he hasn’t, suggests either the coaches see a lot more in practice from the incumbent wide receivers than we do (shocker) and that neither of the freshmen are ready to go. In recent days, Kill has intimated that perhaps one or two of the frosh wide receivers may get some playing time in the coming games.

And the four who I predicted would get some time on special teams? Well, they may very well have gotten some special teams play, but they’re also playing their positions on a regular or semi-regular basis. Stelter’s worked his way into the regular two deeps working at defensive end and defensive tackle. Lincoln is also in there fairly regularly as a Celestin. Everett Williams is the most recent player to have his redshirt taken as he subbed in on special teams after Nick Rallis went down, and got some mop up duty at middle linebacker toward the end of the MTSU game. Of those it seems like the only one that wasn’t planned in some capacity this Everett Williams; the other three got time in the first game before there were any injuries. Everett, on the other hand only came in once Rallis’ ACL got sniped by a vengeful god.

The instance that crushed my tiny, insignificant mind the most was when defensive tackle Gary Moore got in the game last week. When I saw number nineteen on the field midway through the second half of the MTSU game, the blood and brain matter sprayed forth from my ear. “How?” I thought, as my mind deposited itself, liquefied, on my shoulder. I saw Gary Moore play in the open practices, and while he was giant he played with the sort of consistency you would expect to see from someone getting playing time two seasons from now. He might look great on one play and then stand straight up for the next four and get exploded off the line. Lots of potential, making the “Baby Ra’Shede” nickname was applicable in that ‘Shede suffered from some of the same issues his first two years on the defensive line. Nevertheless he’s out there, his redshirt is been taken and we should now expect to see him going forward. For him to not receive significant playing time this year would vex me, as he’s going to grow and develop into the sort of dude who will be an effing monster in four years,

So, great, some freshmen are playing. So what? Well, of the 14 players in the two deeps of our front seven, six are freshmen, five of which are true freshmen. In my many years of drunken, agonizing Gopher fandom, I can never recall our defense being so young. Is it the end of the world? Probably not, it might be, who knows? (/gulps bourbon). I guess if you’re going to go out, go out in a flaming, relativistic jet of youth. That might be where we’re headed. Or maybe our recruiting game has just stepped up so much that the players were bringing now are materially better than the players we’ve had over the last few seasons. If you believe that the freshmen, the 18-year-olds kids, fresh out of their high school proms, which we’re bringing into the program are stronger, more athletic, faster, and more talented than players who have been in this program for the last three or four seasons, then great we’re in good shape. I’m skeptical, but I feel like that’s probably pretty natural. The TCU game tomorrow is really the first opportunity to see whether the freshmen who now comprise roughly half of our two deep in the front seven will stand up to a quality opponent.  

*     *     *

So, I got that Dragon speech recognition software and we’re going to give it a shot here to see how it goes. Straight up stream of consciousness yell crying at my computer right now….

Honestly, what the Christ is wrong with our fan base? I’m a pretty regular purveyor of the Gopher innertronz, so I read pretty much everything is out there that’s not on Gopherhole. (As desperate as I am for Gopher chatter, that polonium farm is too much even for me.) Over the last two weeks, I have seen more scathing hot takes concerning Kills’ poor management of the team, Limegrovers’ ineptitude or just general failures among the coaching staff with respect to the offense. I talked about this in my piece earlier this week, referencing that one of two things is happening: either we have been playing opposition that is inferior to us and consequently haven’t done anything imaginative on the offense or we have absolutely no plan whatsoever and it’s going to be run the ball until we’re consumed by fire.

Now, it’s possible the latter is the answer; but understand that would run counter to the entirety of Jerry Kill’s coaching history. Dynamic, multiple offenses the show myriad looks and are what has defined his philosophy. Do we genuinely believe that we have reached a point where they have entirely abandoned that and are now run at all costs? Just a big ol’ eff it, guys, to hell with our bread and butter? Certainly Limegrover’s commentary after last year’s Iowa game should give us pause. However it’s absurd to believe that they would away from everything that’s served them well throughout their professional lives. Overly stubborn, sometimes? Sure. Incompetently mulish? Nope, no way.

My concern going into tomorrow’s game is all about TCU’s defense, loaded with upperclassman and proven effective at stopping the run. Consequently that means were going to have to pass the ball to be successful and open things up a little (ANALYSIS). However, if we’re unable to do that against TCU, I don’t necessarily believe that that means that there is some deficiency with Kill or Limegrover. We won eight games last year. We have a tough schedule this year we may not win eight games this year; but I feel like we’re going to win somewhere between six and eight games and have a competent squad. I’ll knife fight anyone who claims that recognition of things taking a bit longer to get going offensively is some lame acceptance of mediocrity. We all want a quick fix, to score a million points and rack up 500 yards passing. We’re not there yet, not by any stretch. That doesn’t mean that all hope was lost or we need to fire our offense of coordinator or move Jerry Kill back up to the press box because the offense is much more effective without him there. It just means that maybe, gasp, maybe we just need to exercise a little bit of patience.

If things don’t go well tomorrow, and they very well might not, TCU is a quality team, some will conclude that we’re not going to win a single conference game, that Leidner has hooved feet, horns and lives in a lake of fire, that our wide receivers will rue the day they committed to Minnesota, that Limegrover should quit and open a Five Guys franchise and that Kill should coach from a La Z Boy in Yellowknife because his pernicious meddling is killing the program. I counter that if we perform well tomorrow, then we may have arrived. And if not, our course is true but there’s further to travel. I’m sure to some of you, that sounds like I’m acquiescing to the fact that we’re always going to be a meh program. So be it, I guess.

As I said in Tre’s piece previewing this week’s game, I think we’ll come out and move the ball much more effectively than people think we will. I think we’ll run as much as ever, but a modicum of success passing the ball will alleviate people’s concerns to some extent. We’ll just have trouble getting it in the end zone and that will be the difference in the game.

I hope this is the case. I hope that our offense effectively moves the ball. I hope that, win or lose, at least the offense demonstrates some ability to be productive. Because if we lose and the offense is a flaccid wreck, the outcry on Gopher boards over the coming week is going to be cause for taking a spoonful of Drano, heating that bitch up over a lighter and shooting that sweet rocket to see if I still feel. Should we be concerned? Yeah probably. Should we be demanding people’s heads on pikes on the Mall or burning them in effigy in the tailgate lots next weekend? Nah.

(Frothy's starting word count: 18,362; Finishing word count: 20,313)

Know Your Enemy Week 3: TCU Horned Frogs

In 2013, the Horned Frogs were ranked to start the season.  A closely fought week one loss against LSU and a week 3 loss at Texas Tech pretty much killed all of that noise early and it only went downhill from there.  They finished 4-8 with 4 of those losses coming by 3 points or less.

Coach Gary Patterson enters his 14th year as head coach at Texas Christian.  His Frogs are 1-0 after whipping Samford (no sign of son) 48-14.  This matchup is a big step on TCU's road to get back in the spotlight after a disappointing 2013.

TCU has always been good at stopping the run under Patterson.  They return a gang of starters on both offense and defense.  At quarterback, Trevone Boykin seems to be the man, although prior to the year Patterson stated that he wouldn't know who the QB was between Boykin and A&M transfer Matt Joeckel.  Boykin played well enough against Samford that he appears to be the man for now.  They have a new, high pace offense that was installed with new offensive co-coordinator Doug Meachem and Sonny Cumbie.  They got off a play every 20.2 seconds in the first week, yikes.

So how screwed are we here?

At, Ryan Gerbosi has a 34-10 win for the Frogs.  He also says David Cobb leads the SEC in rushing though.

Mitch Leidner is apparently going to start the game despite suffering an MCL injury last week.  This is good news despite the fact that he has about 12 passing yards thus far.  He's just going to be less prone to making mistakes than the Blues Streveler would be in his first start ever in a hostile environment.

As Frothy had mentioned earlier in the week the question is are the Gophers playing vanilla football or is there delicious fudge and perhaps toffee under that vanilla.  And if you don't understand ice cream logic, what we mean by that is are we just going to continue to run-run-run with the occasional ineffective short pass or is there more to this offense?  If TCU stops the run early, can we adjust the plan or will we stubbornly continue to force the issue in the hopes of breaking free?  If we're down a couple of score, do we open it up or do we lay on our collective backs and give up the belly so TCU can tear it out like Michigan did last year?

Please don't let this be us.

TCU All-Namers

George Baltimore, S - Should have played for Maryland.  I do hope peeps call him Bodymore.
Ranthony Texada, CB - See, this guy at least picked a Texas school.
Travoskey Garrett, CB - Also a Trevorris on the team.
Femi Awe, DE - AWE YEAH
Frank Kee, OG - Never goes by Frankie
Halapoulivaati Vaitai, OT - I call him Hal

Team apostrophe count: 3


TRE:  I am heartened by the non-death of Leidner, although it could be one of those deals where he doesn't make it through the game.  Even still, I think Streveler will be better just seeing Mitch start.  I also think there is opportunity to catch TCU sleeping here.  Sure they traditionally can stop the run, but they didn't play last week and they laid the wood to Samford the week before.  Can they really be ready for D-Cobb and friends ramming it down their throats?  I say no.  Likewise, are we suddenly supposed to believe Boykin is an accomplished QB after one game?  He certainly wasn't when he shared time with Pachall last season. (59%, 7 TD, 7 INT)  Perhaps our defense can force some turnovers.  They've shown big play potential already this year.  I think the +16 line is just too much, but I do think TCU wins 37-30.

I've had the fear poos all week for this one. I go back to when they played against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl a few years back (when I was the biggest Horn Frog fan in the country, god bless). If 'Sconnie had just kept running the ball, they would have pounded TCU to dust. Fortunately, they passed and lost. Now, we're not Wisconsin; but the Frogs aren't the same team from a few years back. I expect us to run a more dynamic offense than the past few weeks (which is saying approximately nothing) and move the ball more effectively than many are anticipating. That and a relatively shaky offensive performance from TCU will lead to a pretty tight affair, which the Gophers will, sadly, lose: 24 - 17.