Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Grading Minnesota's Offense

I'm going to take a page out of Black Shoe Diaries' book and give a numerical grading for Minnesota's efforts Saturday against The Bowling Green State University. I'm doing it this way to try and stay organized while I'm still trying to stomach the loss.

Like many members of "Gopher Nation" I sort of fell in love with Tim Brewster. His passion was amazing. He had his sights set high. But as Tom Powers at the Pioneer Press and Patrick Reusse at the Star Tribune suggest, talk is cheap if you don't win games. Reusse offers this to Brewster, a sentiment I echo: "Shut up and coach."

While I won't state after one loss that Tim Brewster is the next Jim Wacker, suffice to say he was outcoached Saturday and that his predecessor, Glen Mason, who we all ran out of town, would not have lost that game.

So, on to grading the Gophers' offense. I begin with the coaching staff, because I believe a proper gameplan would have won the game.

Coaches: 2 out of 10
Bowling Green won Saturday in overtime, but the game was lost in the first half. While the defense was letting Bowling Green run roughshod, Mike Dunbar's spread offense was sputtering. Instead of using the team's strength--it's offensive line and running attack--Dunbar relied too heavily on the pass. In the second half, the strategy changed. Instead of trying to use the pass to set up the run, Dunbar allowed Amir Pinnix and Adam Weber to use their legs to set up the pass. This should have been the strategy from the first snap of the game. It wasn't and that indicates that Brewster and Dunbar were more concerned with implementing the "dreaded" spread coast offense instead of relying on their players' strenghts. Any coach who does that deserves a failing grade. Dunbar and Brewster get a 2 here instead of a 1 because they realized their mistake in the second half and adjusted. But as fun as the spread coast can be with the right personnel, our coaches should have realized long ago Minnesota doesn't have the necessarry athletes to make it effective.

Running backs: 7 out of 10
If there was something to take away from Saturday's game and be positive about it was the combination of Amir Pinnix and Adam Weber on the ground. Pinnix looked every bit the part of a go-to back, and Weber proved he was capable at running the option and using his legs. I didn't see enough of the much-hyped Duane Bennet to make a judgement on him. If this were Glen Mason's team, Pinnix would have run the ball far more in the first half to begin the process of wearing down the Falcon defense. The second half from Pinnix and Weber on the ground came too late. But that's coaches error and should not be put back on the players.

Quarterback: 4 out of 10
Adam Weber looked lost for most of the first half. Down 14-0, Amir Pinnix broke a 50+ yard run to set the Gophers up in Falcon territory. Weber promptly pulled a Daunte Culpepper and dropped the snap. His passes weren't precise, and for most of the game weren't in the ballpark of precise. Weber's a redshirt freshmen so some inconsistency is to be expected. Weber was hurt by Dunbar's and Brewster's insistence to run the spread coast in a manner that played down his talents. In the second half, Weber demonstrated that he might be able to be an effective quarterback. He ran the ball well and once the Falcon defense committed to the run, Weber had time to throw and made a few good decisions. I expect we'll see vast improvement from Weber as the season progresses, but he's defintley a work in progress.

Wide Receivers: 5 out of 10
This is a tough position to grade because when receivers were open in the first half, Weber missed them. Eric Decker came open on a fly pattern that would have been good for 6, but the pass was overthrown. But enigmatic Ernie Wheelright didn't impress. Knowing a big hit was coming, Wheelright short-armed a pass from Weber that was eventually deflected and intercepted. A senior wideout with the talent Wheelright has should have no excuse for such a play. Wheelright should be able to dominate as a senior against a young defense like Bowling Green's, but he didn't. The young receivers didn't make much of a mark. Troy Herndon looked OK in limited action, but it was clear that after Wheelright and Decker the Gophers are going to have a hard time succeeding in the spread offense. The lack of depth at this position is another reason the Gophers coaches are fooling themselves if they think the spread offense will work this season. The group is given a grade of 5 because there wasn't enough good or bad to grade them up or down. Improvement is needed, but they also need to be put in a position to make plays.

My Minnesota math taught me to add up the scores and divide. When I do that the Gophers' offense, its approach and execution, receives a failng grade.

I'll be back soon with a look at the Minnesota defense. Here, too, we will find that in unconstrained glee to be all-things anti-Mason, the Gophers' coaches allowed a subpar MAC opponent to steal a victory on the road in a Big Ten stadium.

For some perspective, let's all try and remember we lost to a Division I team, not a Football Championship Subdivision opponent as did our friends in Michigan.


lonebadger said...

Maturi wanted Brewster, and I'm guessing here, because of his enthusiasm and because of the spread. Heck, even Nebraska has implemented a passing offense. Numerous NCAA coaches have said, in light of the Michigan debacle, that the spread is the 'big equalizer' in college football. Northwestern has proved that it can work in the Big Ten. If Brewster was brought in to implement the spread and decides not to run it anymore this year, then what? Shouldn't the team take their lumps now as an investment in the future?

Mike 2 said...

While the spread is good, it's bad to implement it in one summer. Brewster should have kept some of the ace-power run game in place; at least a few plays. Well, there is some positive things to come from the loss. Minnesota actually MADE the comeback, rather than give it up. Now, if only Minny can finish them the way TT did. Sorry, had to throw it in there.