Every team has bad games. Sometimes the ball bounces the wrong way, or the flu runs rampant throughout the roster. Today's loss to South Dakota was no fluke. Bad coaching decisions and terrible football fundamentals are to blame. The Gopher's problems are much deeper than a bad day, and it's going to be a long season.
South Dakota played great football, but never should have scored 41 points. Minnesota has fast, strong, agile, big players on the defensive side of the ball. Yet the defensive line couldn't contain the quarterback on roll-out plays. Tackling technique was awful. The linebackers failed to recognize screen plays until the fourth quarter. Blitzes were always telegraphed. The defensive secondary was routinely deep-fried by receivers lacking in Big Ten speed. No effective adjustments were made as the game progressed. Worst of all, the defense would celebrate small victories as if they had just won the Super Bowl, all while they were still losing to a team that was in Division 2 a few years ago.
On offense the Gophers were able to score 38 points, but not impressively. The offensive line is far better than last year, and Duane Bennett looks to be a very good Big Ten running back. Otherwise the play-calling, route-running, execution, kicking, and strategic adjustments were eerily similar to last year. Several wide-open receivers were overthrown, dropped passes, or were never recognized in the first place. Without an effective passing game, the running game will be stopped cold in the Big Ten.
An inability to recruit talented football players was a valid excuse for past Gopher teams that underachieved. That's not an excuse with this team. Minnesota was visibly bigger, stronger, and faster than South Dakota. The Gophers lost because they played sloppy, undisciplined, uninspired football today. When most of the players are receiving a free education, with free room and board, and with the privilege of playing in a beautiful new stadium, there's no excuse for that to ever happen.
1-11 is a reality that could happen again. Without a dramatic turnaround in several areas of play, I'll be very surprised if the Gophers' 2010 record even reaches 3-9.