A Friday Preview of What We Know A Little Bit More Than Last Week - The Air Force Academy v. Minnesota, September 12, 2009

In 1960, John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon to become President of the United States. His margin of victory averaged out, across the country, to about a vote per county. Instead of plunging the country into a 2000-style voting fiasco (even though voter fraud was rampant in, among other places, Chicago), Nixon gracefully conceded.

1960 is more relevant to Gopher fans, however, because that is when Indiana opened Memorial Stadium, which was the most recent stadium opened in the Big Ten.

Until tomorrow. Indiana's only remaining football record in the conference will be wiped from the memory. The BankVaultCreditUnionATMS&LBailout opens for business, and we're all excited. Jump for joy bring your umbrella. The night will be full of pageantry. Brewster's family (but not his mom, according to his testimony on his WCCO show tonight) will be there, and numerous luminaries including Bud Grant will be in attendance. We can be certain a number of the politicians who screwed the suite holders out of alcohol (and, the state out of alcohol revenues, in a unique twist) to be there as well. But don't expect them to have paid for their tickets.

As usual, we'll start with depth charts / rosters:

Minnesota Depth Chart

Air Force Roster

Before going any further, if the situation presents itself, please give a respectful cheer to the following Air Force players from Minnesota:

#32 Jordan Waiwaiole (Spring Lake Park, MN)

#46 Nick Smith (Eden Prairie, MN - played for St. Louis Park)

#50 Alex Means (Mankato, MN - Mankato East) Means started last week as a freshman LB.

#92 DE Wylie Wickstrom (St. Paul, MN - played for Cretin Derham)

#99 PK Erik Soderberg (Eden Prairie, MN - played for Eden Prairie).

Well done Minnesotans. We salute you.

Most important matchups to watch:

(1) Tim Brewster v. Troy Calhoun - there is a line of thinking that suggests the opener should be an easy game to coach for Brewster. After all, back on campus, new digs, great locker room, DQ for the parents, nice lounge for Seantrel to, uh, lounge in (wait, he's at USC at Ohio State this weekend - nevermind), the game takes care of itself.

Insert Lee Corso catchphrase here.

Troy Calhoun is 18-9 as Air Force's coach. The team is typical for a service academy - smallish, fast, disciplined, patient, and not over-emotional. On the other hand, there is going to be some heavy emotion not only for the Gophers and their fans, but also for Brewster. He lucked into this situation and has been peddling this park for over 2 years. Well, here it is, and the expectation is that his team will match the grandeur of the stadium. Pressure is high on him to keep his team under control and, for the first time in his head coaching tenure, outcoach someone. There's not a better time to do that than tomorrow, especially considering the Tedford test awaiting him next Saturday.

(2) The triple option v. Lee Campbell - Campbell had a fantastic game last week against Syracuse. I charted the whole game and didn't find more than 2 plays where Campbell made any kind of technical mistake. Despite what some of our Gopherlurkers may think here, the triple option is a difficult scheme to play against, especially with a short preparation time. Campbell will be integral to stopping not only the FB dive, but also tracking the QB down the line. If he bottles up those options, the night will bode well for Goldy.

(3) The teams v. the weather - anything we know about this game, which is admittedly little after Minnesota's OT cooker and Air Force's scrimmage, is thrown out the window if it rains. Honestly - the last time Minnesota played in the rain was against Michigan in 2007. It hasn't rained more than 3 times in August in Minnesota. I'm sure both teams prepared for the possibility of rain, but there is no substitute for the game.

(4) Jedd Fisch v. MarQueis Gray, Bryant Allen, Hayo Carpenter and David Pittman - Other than Eric Decker, Troy Stoudermire and Duane Bennett, there was not much versatility in the Minnesota attack last Saturday. Adam Weber has effectively had his feet chopped off by Fisch in an effort to turn him into a late career Elway clone, but the key to winning in college football remains, speed. Allen, Carpenter and Pittman have it. The offense needs to be diversified. Also, Gray needs to get snaps. As in, 8-10 snaps a game. 2 snaps as the "Wild Rodent" QB split out wide isn't good enough. Fisch needs to sort out the hieroglyphics with Weber, add to the playbook, and utilize his weapons.

And, finally:

(5) Gopher Momentum v. Opening Night Celebrations - Before my last home game as a high school basketball player, the local public access station decided it wanted our high school's band to play an extended halftime set. We were up on the local rivals by 10 or so. We sat around for an extra 10 minutes, lost our momentum, and lost the game to a last-second 3-pointer.

Momentous occasions in sports, especially when they are televised, are LOOOOOONNNNNGGGGG. In the standard television game, the amount of time sitting around through commercials can be mind-numbing. Undoubtedly, the Big Ten Network, the University of Minnesota Athletic Department (not only for Minnesota, but also because a service academy is in town on the closest weekend to the September 11th anniversary). the Minnesota Marching Band, and anyone else wanting to be sure it's known that a stadium is opening and darn it, I was there, will cause delays in the game. Adding a long pre-game to what could be a slightly longer collection of in-game breaks, combined with the late start, a day of tailgating, and revved up fans could lead to lulls in the crowd, lulls in momentum, and possibly burned out fans by 9pm. It's not certain, but possible. It'll be up to the players, the coaches and the fans to keep and maintain their enthusiasm throughout what will be an intense, exciting and unique day. 

So, new stadium, unique offense from the opponent, excess emotion, first home game outside since 1981. Ready?

Bang your head (against a table) if: Calhoun outcoaches Brewster. It wouldn't be the first time.

Bang your head (like you're at a rock concert) if: The Gophers stay under control, the fans actually boo a service academy, and MarQueis Gray is allowed a snap under center.

My prediction for Saturday: Remember the Monsters of Rock Tour? You can add Europe, Winger, Vanilla Fudge and Poison to the mix. Saturday Night rocks for the Gophers. Minnesota 36 - Air Force 31.

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