Minnesota in need of change, and fast

With Michigan State coming to town, Saturday could be a watershed game for the Gophers.

Josh Katzenstein

Ohio State needed a nice win to bounce back. With Minnesota coming to town, the No. 18 Buckeyes had a fun, relaxing Saturday, destroying the Gophers on both sides of the ball. The lone bright spot for the Gophers was undoubtedly true freshman quarterback MarQueis Gray. By the time he took over, Gray was playing a second-team defense; however, the 25-yard run Gray broke in the first quarter against the BuckeyesâÄô starters offered fans a glimpse of exactly what Gray is capable of. Not only did he break what looked like a strong tackle, but he also made the defensive end bite on the fake handoff before running right by him. In limited time against Ohio State, Gray ran for 81 yards on 11 carries and nearly surpassed starter Adam WeberâÄôs total rushing yards gained this season (84 yards âÄî taking into account sacks, he has -35). He also threw one more touchdown than Weber has thrown in the past two weeks âÄî WeberâÄôs thrown zero. Gray can run and pass and opens MinnesotaâÄôs playbook to a world of trickery, as evidenced by his touchdown catch against Cal. With that 7-yard reception, Gray actually ranks third in receiving touchdowns for the Gophers. WeberâÄôs talent is there. He proved it time and time again as both a freshman âÄî despite a 1-11 season âÄî and a sophomore. Through just over two and a half seasons, Weber is already MinnesotaâÄôs second all-time leading passer, just 354 yards away from breaking Bryan CupitoâÄôs career mark. But in 2009, Weber ranks 11th among Big Ten starters in completion percentage, 10th in quarterback rating and seventh in passing yards, despite the Gophers often playing from behind . GrayâÄôs role has been minimal thus far, but his success and WeberâÄôs recent lack thereof continue to give the coaches reasons to consider an expanded part for Gray. On the other side of the ball, the poison for most of 2009 has been stopping the run, but in last SaturdayâÄôs loss to Ohio State, Minnesota showed it is equally susceptible through the air. Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor came into the game after a week of criticism from the media, his high school coach and even top Ohio State wide receiver DeVier Posey . He responded with more than 340 yards of total offense, including two touchdown passes of more than 50 yards . One of those was a 62-yarder to Posey, who was more than 10 yards past the GophersâÄô secondary and had time to nearly stop his route to haul in the pass before scoring. While the Gophers (4-4 overall, 2-3 Big Ten) are essentially meeting 2009 expectations, something has to give. Minnesota ranks 112th in the FBS in yards per game with an embarrassing 292.8 average . To put that in perspective, Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford alone averaged 337.1 yards per game during his 2008 Heisman run. Two other quarterbacks had more passing yards than Bradford that season. The GophersâÄô sub-300 average is good for 11th in the Big Ten and nearly 50 yards less than any other team. Now, some teams often make up for a lackluster offense with a strong defense. MinnesotaâÄôs defense is 10th in the Big Ten. The 407.5 yards the Gophers allow per game ranks 95th in the FBS . Minnesota wasnâÄôt supposed to beat Ohio State. Everyone expected Joe Paterno to have Penn State ready as well. Yet after two straight losses, people are writing off the season and questioning Minnesota head coach Tim BrewsterâÄôs future with the program. Of the GophersâÄô four losses, Wisconsin was the only game Minnesota could have been either expected to win or thought to have a puncherâÄôs chance. The talks of firing Tim Brewster are only becoming louder, and heâÄôs lucky fans and critics have waited until now. FireBretBielema.com was started after No. 9 Wisconsin lost to Michigan in 2008. The fire-Bielema discussion has been heated for more than a year now. Since taking over as head coach at Wisconsin in 2006, BielemaâÄôs record is 33-13 , including a 12-1 first-year campaign ending with a Capital One Bowl victory. BrewsterâÄôs overall record? 12-21. The Gophers went 1-11 in 2007, his first season at the helm. If Badgers fans have been asking for BielemaâÄôs departure, then BrewsterâÄôs job should have been put in question long ago. The Gophers have the talent to win big games. They also now have the home-field advantage they claimed to need. But with everything going wrong, something has to change. ItâÄôs not my place to say that Brewster should be fired or Weber should be benched, but with Michigan State coming to town, a performance similar to the past two weeks could keep Minnesota falling into mediocrity and eventually into oblivion.