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Minnesota Football: Remembering a season to forget

The 2007 football season was one of the worst in program history. Yet it was the season that I became a Gopher fan for life.

Ohio State v Minnesota Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

SB Nation is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the absolutely bonkers 2007 college football season. Individual blogs were invited to join in and write about their team’s 2007 season. Obviously the 2007 Gopher Football season was...well...less than ideal. But we realized we had things to write about besides lamentations about its horribleness. This is one of those things.

“We’re going to win the Big Ten Championship and we’re going to take the Gopher nation to Pasadena. That’s my dream, that’s my goal and that’s my belief. It will happen here sooner rather than later.”

That promise — one of several from Minnesota head football coach Tim Brewster — was delivered at an introductory press conference on Wednesday, January 17, 2007.

Ten years later, three men have vacated the head coach’s office and a fourth saw his name added to the nameplate outside the door back in January. This fall, he’ll lead the Golden Gophers onto the field at TCF Bank Stadium, rather than the Metrodome (R.I.P.). One athletic director has retired and another was forced to resign amid sexual harassment allegations. The Big Ten is now closer to the Big Fourteen (complete with divisions and a championship game) thanks to the additions of Nebraska, Maryland, and the New York TV market Rutgers.

And the Gophers have added 10 years to their championship drought.

At the time that Brewster delivered that promise, I was 15 years old. I had followed Minnesota football from somewhat of a distance the two years prior. I considered myself a Gophers fan, but was limited to watching the handful of games that were televised in our area. I had seen them play in person at Kinnick Stadium in 2005, but Ed Hinkel ruined that for me. I remember having to follow the 2006 Insight Bowl on the computer via ESPN Gamecast and feeling utterly helpless as Graham Harrell and the Texas Tech Red Raiders orchestrated the greatest comeback in bowl game history, which would lead to the firing of Glen Mason shortly thereafter.

So when Brewster took the helm and started talked about taking the program to heights it hadn’t reached in decades, I was sold. I saw it as my opportunity to wholeheartedly embrace the program as it was being ushered into a new era. My dad and I even attended the spring game and stayed after the game to have the players autograph a football (which is now collecting dust somewhere in the clutter of my parents’ garage).

And we obviously needed to be there when the Brewster era began in the Metrodome against the Bowling Green Falcons on Saturday, September 1, 2007.

It was an unforgettable experience for all the wrong reasons.

I don’t think I uttered a single word to my dad during the first half. The Gophers headed to the locker room down 21-0 at halftime to a MAC program that had gone 4-8 the previous season. I was stunned. Minnesota would mount a furious comeback in the second half and even take a 24-21 lead at one point in the fourth quarter, but the Falcons tied it up with a field goal in the closing seconds of regulation. Bowling Green prevailed 32-31 after opting for a two-point conversion in the first period of overtime.

Tim Brewster’s Gophers were 0-1, and all of his preseason bluster about winning the Big Ten and going to the Rose Bowl suddenly felt like a distant memory.

The rest of the season was different degrees of terrible. The following week, Brewster earned his first win as a head coach in a 41-35 triple overtime victory over Miami (Ohio). Defensive coordinator Everett Withers’ defense was the worst in the country. Literally. Minnesota ranked dead last in total defense, allowing 55 total touchdowns and 518 yards per game. Shootout losses to Florida Atlantic (42-39), Purdue (45-31), Northwestern (49-48), and Wisconsin (41-34) had me wondering what could’ve been had Minnesota fielded even a mediocre defense.

The Gophers’ 1-11 record at the end of the season was the program’s worst since a 1-10 finish in 1983. And I was with them every step of the way.

The thing was, I had no real ties to the University of Minnesota. I wasn’t from the state of Minnesota, and I didn’t live there. I briefly considered applying to the University of Minnesota, but ended up going elsewhere. I had no friends or family who were alumni. Having grown up in Iowa, I could’ve cast my lot with the Hawkeyes (pass) or the Cyclones (meh). There was no contract — real or otherwise — that said I had to stick with the Gophers after enduring a 1-11 season.

Yet here I am, ten years later. An unpaid blogger for The Daily Gopher.

Something my brother had said to me that year struck a chord: “You’re not a true fan until you’ve been through a losing season.” To borrow a line from Brad Pitt’s Moneyball, I hate losing more than I like winning. I spend more time dwelling on losses than I do celebrating victories. But I understood what he meant. If you only root for a team or program when they’re winning, then you’re not actually a fan of that team or program. You’re just a fan of winning. You can take a cue from Badgers fans and pretend that Barry Alvarez invented the sport of football, or you can take your lumps and hold out for better days ahead. Because as miserable as that 1-11 season was, it’ll be that much sweeter when they’re 11-1 (stop laughing).

So I stuck with the Gophers. And they’ve since rewarded me with five losing seasons, nine consecutive losses to Wisconsin, and one New Year’s Day bowl game (albeit, their first since 1962, and I was even able to attend). But I was also at the Big House in 2014 when the Gophers re-claimed the Little Brown Jug for just the second time in my lifetime. It was another unforgettable experience, but for all the right reasons.

Yes, there have probably been more positives than negatives over the last decade of Gopher football. Does that make me a glutton for punishment? Maybe. But I prefer the term “fan.” Cause they’re my team, win or lose. *raises beer*

But let’s agree to never do that 1-11 season again.