I have to say I am disappointed in our collective reaction to the past two weeks of Gopher football. Make no mistake, no one should be happy with our recent performances but it is surprising to see the hysteria coming from a fan base that has plenty of experience in frustrations and let downs.
What is your rock bottom as a Gopher fan? Mine is
Michigan screen pass Wisconsin onside kick/blocked punt Texas Tech NDSU 55-0 South Dakota New Mexico State NDSU AGAIN?!? Michigan 2013. Did you see what I did there? 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2013 all had terrible moments for a fan to endure. Why are we acting like we haven't been there before? My mind is truly boggled.
This article is not a sermon, nor will it rehash the problem (HINT: It starts with an "O.") Why won't I take time to talk about the problem that shall not be named? SPOILER ALERT: Jerry Kill is not going to fire Matt Limegrover. Instead, I would like to spend my time this week revisiting the most-recent low point of the program in order to give this fan base some sorely needed perspective-based Xanax.
Let's hit up the George Michael Sports Machine to travel way back to Ann Arbor on October 5, 2013. After a promising start to the season, the Gopher program was on the verge of falling apart. Plagued by continued heavy defeats by conference foes and lazy sportswriters reacting to a serious health situation, Minnesota lost a game 42-13 to a Michigan team that would finish 7-6. The play of the quarterback was in question as Minnesota managed just 145 yards passing and a 72-yard pick-six capped the game with just over a minute remaining. Worse than the on-field performance, however, was the psyche of the program. Jerry Kill was not able to travel with the team due to health problems which have since been addressed. Serious questions about his ability to lead this program were fueled by local media filling up column inches. A bye week on the horizon was treated like a cool breeze in July.
For me as a fan, this was it. The end. Time to move on with my life. "Gopher luck" had hit us just when things looked like they would turn around. I remember saying to my friends, "The Gophers are done winning this year." Then something funny happened on the way to an embarrassing season. This coaching staff figured out a way to turn the team around. I happened to go to the Northwestern game after the bye week. Not because I was looking forward to it, but because I had cousins in town and it seemed like it would be a good way for the guys to spend a Saturday morning while the ladies shopped. The 7-7 halftime score made me shrug, "We've all seen what happens to us in the second half, and our offense couldn't score at the Bunny Ranch." But I couldn't ignore James Manuel's run into the end zone or a 10-point lead with 5:24 to go. The eternal optimist was back! Cue the record scratch. A bogus pass interference penalty gave Northwestern life and made the game closer than it should have been. This time, however the Gophers held onto the ball and ran out the clock. That's a Bingo! Next week was "shits and motions," followed by with Indiana's backward pass, and then some serious man-ball to beat Penn State. The program that was as lost as a baby elephant walking the wrong way in the middle of a sandstorm had found the trail and a way to win four B1G games in a row!
Back to the present. While I am not happy with the play calling, quarterback play, the offensive line's regression, or the lack of breakout stars at our skill positions, I do understand that this staff has been through much worse. Matt Limegrover is not going to change. Jerry Kill will sacrifice his own job before that of his friend. Their relationship has been under stress before and and I expect frank, but very private, conversations are taking place as we lament over #RUTM. All of this could mean one of two things. Either Kill & Co have finally met their match and will suffer the first real program regression in a decade, or they will find a way to tape together another 8-win season.
We have been here before, Gopher fans. It is up to you to choose to follow an historically accurate but pessimistic outlook for our program or to believe in this staff's ability to squeak out wins. Although I am deeply frustrated with the state of the offense, I will continue to believe in this staff. The fact remains that, even through injuries and a loss of key personnel, this team has more talent than any other team in recent history. It is important to remember that college football involves the coordination of many human beings. Players do not slot into a roster with set ratings from 1 up to 99. The transitive property does not apply to college football. The Gophers will not lose to Illinois by the difference between their respective victories over Kent State. Issues need to be addressed, but ask yourself this question:
What about Jerry Kill makes you think that he won't be able to recognize deficiencies and squeeze every drop out his program?