A wasted weekend for Minnesota athletics

The Gophers let defining wins go begging in nearly every sport.

by Josh Katzenstein

This could have been a big weekend for Gophers sports. A win over Penn State in football could have given Minnesota momentum entering another pivotal game against Ohio State. Instead, any chance the Gophers had of making the Rose Bowl (Illinois made the 2008 affair with three losses) just walked away. The volleyball team could have cemented its place as the second best team in the Big Ten behind Penn State. Minnesota was swept by the Illini on Friday night and now sits in third place looking up at the two teams that swept them. MenâÄôs hockey had the chance to showcase its new talent this weekend as well. The Gophers were shut out Friday and managed just a tie Saturday against North Dakota. Finally, the soccer team saw its 19-game home unbeaten streak snapped at the hands of Penn State. Seeking some redemption, the Gophers lost again to Ohio State on Sunday to fall from first place in the conference to fifth. Minnesota had all the opportunity to seize some type of acclaim across the athletic spectrum, yet the teams failed to grasp any of it. The womenâÄôs hockey squad offered the only bright spot with a sweep of Minnesota-Duluth. With the football, volleyball and soccer seasons winding down, the Gophers face the possibility of another trophy-less fall. Volleyball head coach Mike Hebert and his squad have talked about the Final Four as the teamâÄôs goal all season long. The No. 9 Gophers (15-5 overall, 6-2 Big Ten) will make the NCAA tournament and likely receive a high seed. However, if Minnesota continues to struggle with upper echelon teams, that lofty goal likely wonâÄôt come to fruition. Thus far, all five of the volleyball teamâÄôs losses have come to ranked opponents. Nebraska, Washington and Penn State were all ranked in the top 3 when they beat the Gophers. Oregon was ranked 12th and Illinois 10th prior to the victories. The Gophers have won two games over ranked opponents this season (Kansas State and Iowa State), but if they continue to falter against top teams, the Gophers might have another early round exit in the NCAA Tournament. As for the football team, postseason success should be the furthest thing from the Gophers mind. In order to reach a bowl game, Minnesota (4-3, 2-2) needs to win two of its remaining five games. Three of the five games are at TCF Bank Stadium, but the Gophers have yet to show they truly have a home field advantage. If Minnesota finds a way to make a bowl game, the games the Gophers are likely to come out on top are the Nov. 7 matchup with Illinois and a Nov. 14 contest with South Dakota State. But the Illini may not fold so easy with the looming memory of the 2008 homecoming loss, 27-20, in Champaign to the Gophers. The Penn State game offered a great chance for Minnesota football to show it wanted all the things head coach Tim Brewster promised: a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl. Instead, the Gophers go to Columbus to face an angry Ohio State team on the heels of a loss to Purdue. BuckeyeâÄôs head coach Jim Tressel rarely loses games. ItâÄôs quite unlikely he will allow his team to lose two in a row. The soccer team managed to slip from Big Ten leaders into mere mediocrity over the weekend. Before home matchups with Penn State and Ohio State, the squad sat atop the Big Ten. Now, the Gophers (10-4-2, 3-2-1) find themselves in fifth place. If the slip in the standings wasnâÄôt enough, Minnesota ended its 19-game home unbeaten streak with the loss to Penn State on Friday. If the Gophers canâÄôt control the home field and fail to turn up the heat, the possibility of repeating as Big Ten champions is unlikely. Lastly, there is the menâÄôs hockey team. Then-No. 4 North Dakota obviously presented the Gophers with a tough task to open the season, but it will not get any easier for Minnesota. They return home to face No. 4 Denver with the all-too-real possibility of starting the season without a win in its first four games. This upcoming weekend has its share of big-time matchups for the Gophers between the Ohio State football game and the Denver hockey series. A few Minnesota wins this weekend may earn back some respect, but this was a tough weekend for Minnesota fans to swallow.