Homecomings dampened by bowl game loss

MIAMI — Any part of a south Florida homecoming that wasn’t already washed out before the Micronpc.com Bowl on Dec. 28th, surely was ruined by the time the game was over.
First there was cornerback Willie Middlebrooks (from Florida City) and wide receiver Antoine Henderson (Fort Lauderdale) who were each sidelined with injuries.
Then came safety Delvin Jones (Miami) — the Gophers leading tackler this season — who was suspended from the game for a University-related issue.
That was then followed by safety Clorenzo Griffin and cornerback Trevis Graham (both of Fort Lauderdale), who were fortunate enough to play in the game, but unfortunate enough to have to face North Carolina State’s passing attack.
The pair were victimized by Wolfpack quarterback Philip Rivers, who torched the Gophers secondary for 310 yards and two touchdowns.
Graham said before the heartbreaking loss he was happy to return home to where it all started.
“If you had told me ‘Trevis, you’re going to play in South Florida your senior year,’ I probably would have given you the business,” Graham said.
He would have probably given you even more business if you told him Minnesota would blow a 24-point lead in the same game.
Where was everybody?
The crowd was announced to be 28,359, but that number wan’t close to the actual fans in seats.
The crowd at Pro Player Stadium was lucky to be half of that number, which made the game look like a baseball game between the Marlins and Brewers.
Wait until next year
While it’s still uncertain who will coach the Gophers next year (a decision from Ohio State on Glen Mason should come this week), there are many certainties about Minnesota football in 2001.
Most of them gaps in the starting lineups.
The biggest holes surround the defense, which was suspect down the stretch. The Gophers lose eight of their 11 starters next season.
Seven, including all-time Minnesota sack leader Karon Riley, lose eligibility. The eighth, junior cornerback Willie Middlebrooks, declared for the NFL draft.
On the offensive side, Minnesota will return their starters at the key positions of quarterback, running back and wide receiver.
But the Gophers will be hurt on the offensive line, as they lose two of their five starters, including All-American center Ben Hamilton.
Players at each position may fill without much of a problem. Finding a new head coach will.