Scoggins: Gophers have hit bottom
We've heard over and over that the Gophers football program is in the dumps and needs time to pull itself together. Be patient, we're told. The cupboard is bare. They need more talent. The previous coach left the place in shambles. Fine, but that...
We've heard over and over that the Gophers football program is in the dumps and needs time to pull itself together.
Be patient, we're told. The cupboard is bare. They need more talent. The previous coach left the place in shambles.
Fine, but that's still no excuse for what took place Saturday night. Is the Gophers situation so dire that we're supposed to accept them getting embarrassed at home by a team that competes at a lower level, has 22 fewer scholarships available and does not have one player who was offered a scholarship to a Big Ten school?
What, did Tim Brewster take the program's collective pride with him, too?
I wrote that the Gophers hit rock bottom after a six-point loss to North Dakota State back in 2007. I stand corrected.
They dug a little deeper Saturday night in a 37-24 loss to the same school at TCF Bank Stadium.
This is the bottom, right?
"I feel bad for our students, I feel bad for the state of Minnesota, I feel bad for our fans and I feel bad for our kids," Gophers coach Jerry Kill said.
It's never a good sign when you can't distinguish the Big Ten team from the Division I-AA (or whatever they call it now), but that was the case if you ignored the color of their uniforms.
Kill accepted blame several times afterward by saying he was outcoached by NDSU's Craig Bohl, but this was a collective failure. Everyone had a hand in it.
The Gophers committed too many penalties, gave up too many big plays on defense and rotated quarterbacks like a revolving door. The Bison played harder and were the better team.
Oh, by the way. The Gophers face dynamic quarterback Denard Robinson in their Big Ten opener at Michigan next week. Good luck with that.
They enter conference play with a porous defense and a quarterback quandary. Kill declared after the season opener that he doesn't have a quarterback controversy. He shouldn't have one now either.
Freshman Max Shortell should be the guy. He's the best quarterback on the roster right now.
MarQueis Gray is a terrific athlete who can make something of nothing when the play breaks down and he's forced to scramble. But he's wildly inaccurate throwing the ball and doesn't look comfortable in the pocket, which forced the coaching staff to shuffle quarterbacks throughout the second half based on the situation.
Yes, Shortell threw a game-sealing interception that was returned for a touchdown, but he just looks more confident running the offense right now.
Kill said he wants to review the film before he makes any declarations about his quarterbacks, but he acknowledged he doesn't like alternating them so frequently. How do you establish any kind of rhythm and avoid becoming predictable doing that?
The Gophers' problems go beyond their quarterbacks. Kill insists on running a disciplined program, but some of his players aren't getting the message yet. They made enough mental mistakes in the first half alone to last a season.
They had two penalties on third down that kept alive NDSU's first scoring drive. They misplayed a kickoff that forced them to start a drive at the 5-yard line. Wide receiver Da'Jon McKnight had a false start on fourth-and-2 in the fourth quarter.
"You have to play disciplined football," Kill said. "We have to change the culture, and it's not going to happen overnight."
The final sequence in the first half took the cake and showed just how far the Gophers have to go. On fourth-and-8 with 5 seconds left, Gray threw a pass that wasn't in the same zip code of a receiver.
Bison safety Colten Heagle came up with an easy interception and returned it 30 yards. He tossed the ball backwards as he was being tackled and Minneapolis native Marcus Williams picked it up on one bounce and took it 52 yards for the touchdown as time expired.
"When you play hard, you get luckier," Kill said. "When you don't play hard all the time, you're not near as lucky. It seemed like everything fell their way tonight. They made some plays. Well, they played hard. They played harder than we did."
That should never happen, no matter how bleak things appear.