Tim Brewster and his defiant energy are gone and Minnesota’s search for a new coach has begun. The Gophers players aren’t ready to declare 2010 a lost season.
“There’s no magic format,” said interim head coach Jeff Horton, who took over for the fired Brewster this week. “I think the biggest thing we can do is provide that leadership and just keep marching forward, try to help our kids get better.”
Horton is trying to give a sense of optimism to a group that has already been beaten six times this fall.
“We’ll never give up on the season,” quarterback Adam Weber said. “We’ve got five more games, which is an eternity.”
The Gophers (1-6, 0-3 Big Ten) host Penn State today at TCF Bank Stadium, the 65th different place Joe Paterno will have coached a game since taking over the famed program in 1966. This will be Paterno’s 533rd game in charge of the Nittany Lions.
Brewster only lasted 45 games, but Paterno wished him well.
“He’s an easy guy to be around, an outgoing guy,” Paterno said. “I worried a little bit about him in a sense that he built up expectations for the Minnesota people, and I think he underestimated just how long it would take. ... It takes a little while to get a team together and competitive, probably more so this year than any other year because the Big Ten is tougher this year.”
Paterno added: “I could not, after watching them play, say, ‘Hey, that’s a poorly coached football team.’ ”
The Nittany Lions (3-3, 0-2) are struggling to move the ball and keep their stingy defense healthy, so Paterno is going through his own challenge to keep his team sharp and motivated in a season that also has fallen well below expectations.
There’s no shame in losing at Alabama and Iowa, but Penn State wasn’t competitive in either game. Then there was the loss at home to Illinois, a big letdown after beginning the year ranked 19th and finishing 11-2 last season.
The Nittany Lions had last weekend off.
Fullback Michael Zordich called Minnesota “a must-win game.”
“We need to get things going,” he said.
Right guard Stefen Wisniewski acknowledged the lack of enthusiasm and fire has been a problem.
“Every game that’s left is a big win if you want to have a good season,” he said.
The Gophers are simply trying to finish on a positive note, and Weber would sure love that.
His college career has brought more downs than ups, starting with the firing of Glen Mason following his redshirt season and then a 1-11 finish in Brewster’s first year when he learned on the job as a freshman starter.
His sophomore season ended with a five-game losing streak, and his junior year brought a new offense to figure out and the late-October loss of close friend and star wide receiver Eric Decker to a foot injury.
Then came home defeats by South Dakota and Northern Illinois, and Brewster’s dismissal just last Sunday.
Weber, however, has a chance to make this week special. He’s 100 yards short of 10,000 for his career and would become only the fifth passer in Big Ten history to reach that milestone. Drew Brees and Curtis Painter of Purdue, Brett Basanez of Northwestern and Chuck Long of Iowa are the others. Weber’s total has been boosted by the amount of times the Gophers trailed in a game and had no choice but to throw, but this would still be quite the accomplishment.
“It’s a big deal to me, and I’m happy that I have the possibility of doing it at home,” Weber said.
What: Penn State (3-3, 0-2 Big Ten) at Minnesota (1-6, 0-3).
Where: TCF Bank Stadium.
Radio: STAR 100.9 FM, WNTW 990 AM, NEWS/TALK 1310 AM, WNTJ 1490 AM.