Gophers battered, but looking to bury ugly loss and focus on USC

Josh Katzenstein

The pain was instant. The swelling soon followed. The film might be locked away. All memories of the Minnesota football teamâÄôs loss to South Dakota may be pushed deep down. But the Coyotes collectively punched the Gophers in the eye. And this football team is still black and blue. âÄúYouâÄôve got to take your medicine when you lose a game like we did to South Dakota, which we shouldnâÄôt have lost,âÄù coach Tim Brewster said. âÄúPeriod.âÄù As they do at 5:30 p.m. every Sunday after a game, the Gophers âÄúburiedâÄù a 41-38 loss to South Dakota in order to focus on the upcoming game against No. 18 Southern Cal. But SaturdayâÄôs loss was different, and even if the Gophers win âÄî or lose âÄî the rest of their games this season, a loss to a Football Championship Series (formerly Division I-AA) team will be the black mark on the 2010 season. The Gophers must move forward, but it wonâÄôt be easy. Quarterback Adam Weber turned to his father, Bob, for a little guidance as the senior captain tries to move forward. âÄúI talked to my dad last night, and he was saying, âÄòWell, thatâÄôs done and over with. You can sit there and dwell on it and feel bad about yourself, but what good does that do? It doesnâÄôt do anyone any good,âÄô âÄú Weber said. The Gophers need to follow the recovery pattern of their 2008 Insight Bowl opponent, Kansas. The Jayhawks fell to FCS foe North Dakota State on Sept. 4 this year. On Saturday, they beat No. 15 Georgia Tech. âÄúYou can either go in the dumps after a loss or you can become stronger and you tighten the whole group up,âÄù Weber said. âÄúWeâÄôre choosing to tighten the group up and become stronger, become more united and I believe thatâÄôs probably what Kansas did.âÄù Brewster said the team envisioned being 2-0 at this point. Weber said that would have been ideal. The Gophers, though, are 1-1 and must find the remedy to win future games and avoid the not-so-distant 1-11 season in 2007. For Weber, the medicine is ball security. The quarterback coughed up two fumbles Saturday and said he plans on staying after practice this week to work on protecting the ball. âÄúWhen you go out there and play, youâÄôre not thinking about [fumbling]. YouâÄôve just got to play football,âÄù Weber said. âÄúI feel horrible about those fumbles, but I know theyâÄôre correctable.âÄù The defense, though, will need a more thorough diagnosis. First, a shot in the form of senior free safety Kyle Theret, who was suspended the first two games. Theret will play against the Trojans, and Brewster said that should give the Gophers defense a boost. âÄúI donâÄôt know that thereâÄôs a more competitive little guy in college football than Kyle Theret,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúHeâÄôs not the most talented guy, not the biggest, not the fastest, not the strongest, but you know what? He cares. He cares deeply about his football team. HeâÄôs a very prideful guy about how he plays the game.âÄù Theret replaces Christyn Lewis, who was exploited against the Coyotes. The defensive backs are supposed to prevent long passing plays. They are also supposed to contain a running quarterback. South DakotaâÄôs Dante Warren threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 81 yards and two touchdowns. Senior safety Kim Royston, still recovering from a broken leg, is not in the starting lineup, so the Gophers secondary remains on crutches. âÄúItâÄôs definitely a tough loss, but we just have to use that loss as motivation for our next game,âÄù senior cornerback Ryan Collado said. âÄúAnd all the criticism that weâÄôre getting, youâÄôve just got to use that moving forward.âÄù The outside criticism is not only of the secondary but also of the coach. When he became coach, Brewster said he would take the Gophers to a Rose Bowl and Big Ten title. Now, heâÄôs feeling disappointed on behalf of the fans. âÄúOur fans are starving for a winner,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúTheyâÄôre starving for a winner here at the University of Minnesota, a true winner, and I feel a tremendous sense of obligation to deliver that winner to our fans, and weâÄôre going to get that done.âÄù SaturdayâÄôs loss turned some believers into skeptics, but USC is right around the corner. If there was ever a chance to make a statement with a win, the Gophers have it at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday in TCF Bank Stadium. âÄúIâÄôve got tremendous conviction that weâÄôre doing the things on a daily basis that we need to do,âÄù Brewster said. And if not, the Gophers might need a few extra bags of ice on Sunday.