On Jan. 17, a new coach came in to the Minnesota football team promising to drastically change the attitude surrounding his new squad.
That coach was Tim Brewster, who this spring used motivational tactics on the Gophers such as bringing in a piece of sod from the Rose Bowl, implementing new terms such as “Gopher Nation,” and showing his credibility by having Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan address the team.
As the days drew closer to his first game, Brewster’s passion and work ethic were apparent in the intensity of two-a-day practices in August and his everyday attempts to sell this program to anyone willing to buy.
But the enthusiasm and swagger that Brewster and the Gophers brought into their first game was stopped at a dead halt in his first official half as coach, as Bowling Green jumped out to a 21-0 lead early in the contest.
“I really challenged the team, we needed to show heart and resolve,” Brewster said about his halftime speech. “I was really proud of the way they responded. Obviously, I would have liked to have a better start, but once we settled down, I really felt good about how we played the rest of the way.”
The passion and intensity that Brewster has brought to this program was evident in a second-half comeback which brought the team to a three-point lead with only a few minutes remaining. But the lack of experience
and depth ultimately was the downfall that allowed Bowling Green to come away with the overtime win.
“My initial statement is to congratulate Bowling Green,” said Brewster after the stunning loss. “I thought those guys did a nice job. They came in prepared and jumped on us early.”
Although Brewster said he was extremely proud of how his team battled back, the loss was admittedly still a tough way to start his coaching tenure.
“I am bitterly disappointed that we lost,” Brewster said. “I was looking forward to singing the ‘(Minnesota) Rouser’ in the locker room. These kids fought their guts out, and I give them credit for that.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Adam Weber experienced similar emotions as Brewster coming into this game, as it was his first start for the Gophers.
“Coming out, we just didn’t bring the right intensity,” Weber said after the game. “It was disappointing for everyone, especially for coach Brewster. As a team, it was embarrassing for us.”
Wide receiver Eric Decker said he knows that this painful loss will not stop Brewster and the Gophers from being as prepared as possible for next week’s game against Miami (Ohio).
“It’s the first game,” Decker said calmly. “You’ve got to learn from it, and go watch film to see where your mistakes are.”
Brewster said the film from the game will show some discouraging signs but also some things to instill hope.
“There are a lot of things to build on,” Brewster said. “We are going to study (the game film). We’re going to study it real hard.”
But one striking difference in Saturday’s game compared to nonconference games in past seasons was the fan support. Brewster lived up to his word about building up a strong fan base that filled much of the Metrodome, with an attendance of 49,253 for the opener.
“This was an exciting environment,” Brewster said. “I hope our fans feel good about the way the team played and laid it on the line.”
And with the strong second-half comeback in front of that embracing crowd, Brewster said he looks for even more improvement in the coming weeks.
“This is a long race,” he said. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”