Quest to recapture Jug foiled by non-existent offense

Freshman Running back DeLeon Eskridge is popped by a Michigan defender as the ball is jarred lose. The Gophers would recover, but the play was representative of an overall poor offensive performance.

Jules Ameel

Freshman Running back DeLeon Eskridge is popped by a Michigan defender as the ball is jarred lose. The Gophers would recover, but the play was representative of an overall poor offensive performance.

After his teamâÄôs 29-6 loss at the hands of Michigan on Saturday, Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster said something thatâÄôs becoming quite evident: âÄúWeâÄôve got a ways to go, yet.âÄù âÄúThereâÄôs no way to put a prettier dress or a positive spin on the ball game today,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúWe just didnâÄôt play well.âÄù How bad was it? More specifically: How bad was the offense? Try 188 yards total from scrimmage, the GophersâÄô lowest output of the season. Or the fact that they didnâÄôt put a touchdown on the board âÄî the first time theyâÄôve failed to do so since Oct. 28, 2006. On MinnesotaâÄôs third play from scrimmage on Saturday, Adam Weber fired a quick out to wide receiver Ben Kuznia . The ball slipped out of the sophomore quarterbackâÄôs hand and fell harmlessly to the turf, missing Kuznia by five yards. At the time, it didnâÄôt seem like a monumental mistake, but it hinted at the disastrous day the GophersâÄô offense was about to have. That three and out was followed by four more; Minnesota (7-3 overall, 3-3 Big Ten) didnâÄôt gain a first down until midway through the second quarter and finished the half with 46 yards . The run game that Brewster stressed so much leading up to the game was nonexistent. Adding injury to insult, junior wide receiver Eric Decker , easily MinnesotaâÄôs best, left the game early in the second quarter, still bothered by an ankle sprain he suffered last week against Northwestern. Fortunately for the Gophers, the injury wasnâÄôt re-aggravated, Brewster said. âÄúHe wasnâÄôt near 100 percent going into the game, and he got banged around a little bit during the game, and it was just best for him to sit out.âÄù It was probably better that Decker left, rather than risk a more serious injury in a game that seemed out of reach after the first quarter. Michigan (3-7, 2-4) might have only led 6-0, but the Gophers clearly were not going anywhere with the ball. MinnesotaâÄôs defense managed to keep the Wolverines out of the end zone until late in the second quarter , but it was on the field so much that Michigan was bound to start scoring. The Wolverines had possession for more than 34 minutes of the game, thanks to the GophersâÄô inability to sustain a drive and, eventually, the yards started piling on. Michigan used seven different players to rush for 232 yards ,and quarterback Nick Sheridan, starting in place of the injured Steven Threet, added 203 yards and a touchdown through the air on 18 completions in 30 attempts. No positives on either side of the ball. But after the game, there were no hanging heads, no fingers pointing, no one playing the blame game. Instead, everyone seemed to blame himself. Brewster did: âÄúWe didnâÄôt play well today and I take full responsibility for that as head football coach.âÄù Weber did: âÄúWhat we needed to do off the bat was come out right away, put up some points âĦ We just werenâÄôt able to do that.âÄù Senior tight end Jack Simmons did: âÄúI think if we start to protect Adam better youâÄôre going to see him pick up defenses more and have time to go to the second and third read.âÄù After two straight lackluster performances and losses, the Gophers should be hard on themselves. But theyâÄôre also keeping things in perspective. âÄúWeâÄôre a 7-3 team. Last year we were a 1-11 team. I donâÄôt want to diminish the significance of the improvement weâÄôve made,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúObviously weâÄôre disappointed, but weâÄôre a much-improved football team.âÄù Simmons looked at it this way: âÄúI think the exciting thing is we are extremely disappointed to be 7-3,âÄù he said. âÄúWe got to look at ourselves in the mirror and say âÄòWe hurt ourselves, and we could be a 9-1 football team right now.âÄô ItâÄôs exciting in regards to the fact that people are really disappointed and not satisfied to be 7-3.âÄù