Minnesota Football: Tim Brewster coaches to avoid a blowout

As I watched the Gophers play USC during the 1st half on Saturday I was feeling pretty decent. There we were, playing tough, moving the ball, doing a serviceable job of slowing the the Trojans. By game end I was still in a pretty good mood, but it was no longer because of the football being played on the field.

I know you read this everywhere, but on Saturday once again I was just dazzled by The Bank. Perfect weather, perfect day, good seats, a few barley-pops before the game with the TDG staff... It just doesn't get any better than that for me. Anyway, on to the football.

As Jeffrick and I sat in section 222 watching the Gopher offense began to feel a little bit like "Groundhog Day." "First down... here comes the run," Jeffrick would say. "2nd and long... here comes the run," I would say. Until the 4th quarter, we were almost never wrong.

Then on Sunday evening I decide to re-watch the game on DVR and I hear the announcers say that Tim Brewster mentioned wanting to get two first downs per possession and play a field position game and pinning USC deep in their own territory on punts. Exciting stuff.

Let me be clear, I am not upset about the coaching staff staying committed to the run and continuing to try to make something happen on the ground. Specifically in order to keep the offense balanced and in order to allow the play-action pass to be effective throughout the game. What I do, however, have an issue with, is how they went about it.

  • Minnesota had 12 offensive series against USC
  • 7 of those 12 drives started with a run
  • 6 of those 7 drives that started with a run, were followed up... with another run.
  • Let that sink in a moment: HALF of Minnesota's 12 drives started with 2 runs in a row
  • Of 27 first down plays that the Gophers ran, 17 of them happened in the first 3 quarters.
  • 14 of those 17 (82%) first down plays in the first 3 quarters were runs.
  • In the 4th quarter reaction (or: Too Little "Creativity," Too Late) file, 4 of the 5 drives that didn't start with a run happened in the 4th quarter, and 9 out of the 10 first down plays the Gophers ran in the 4th quarter were pass plays.

Then we get stuff like this from Brewster.

"Was there anybody who thought we would be ahead in the third quarter yesterday? Nobody. Period."

Yes Tim, great work. That really was a magical 8 seconds. I'm glad that you feel good about that, but I would bet your players don't.

This is a USC team that is not the USC we've seen in the past. They are undisciplined and susceptible on defense, especially in the secondary. They are highly talented on offense, but they don't quite have an identity.

And yet, our coaching staff did nothing to take advantage of the most beatable USC team in a decade. All signs point to Tim Brewster being satisfied with keeping it close instead of trying to take advantage of USC's weaknesses, mixing it up a bit on offense and trying to catch USC off guard... until the 4th quarter, when it was already too late and they completely abandoned the game plan that they had refused to get away from for 3 solid quarters.

Yes, Tim Brewster, your team took the lead against USC in the 3rd quarter (again, for a whopping 8 seconds), and you did it because your 4 year starting, senior quarterback threw an absolutely perfect ball to Da'Jon McKnight.

You have to establish the run, you have to have a willingness to stick with it to keep the defense honest and open up the play-action pass. You'll find no argument here. But you can do it with some creativity, you can do it by mixing in a pass on first down every now and then. You don't have anything to lose against USC. Everybody expects you to get blown out. You don't shock the world by having a game plan that fans sitting in the stands can see coming.

Instead Tim Brewster lead a game plan that could best be described as scared. Screw moral victories. After watching USC play on Saturday I believe more than ever that this was a winnable game.

Tim Brewster missed a golden opportunity at finally beating a ranked team and getting a signature win in his 4th year leading this program because he was too scared to push his offensive coordinator to be creative.
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