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| Further Analysis
Two years removed from a ten-win season that was supposed to be the
stepping stone in the Mason era, the program didn't take
advantage of the momentum and despite returning 16 starters, appears
in for a bit of a rough year.
Where are the stars? There are some nice players to get excited
about like defensive end Steve Davis, receiver Ernie Wheelwright,
and All-America caliber tight end Matt Spaeth, but overall, there
aren't enough horses to realistically dream about a Big Ten title
unless some crazy things happen and all the breaks fall the right
Yes, the offense will be effective like always. There might not be a
Marion Barber III or Laurence Maroney running the ball, or even a
Gary Russell, but you could be a threat for 1,000 yards in this
attack. Minnesota has the best game going in college football right
now when it comes to offensive line play and running the ball. While
there have been some talented players in the mix, it's not like the
Gophers have had a who's who of prep All-Americans and yet they
still can run the ball on just about anyone. After paving the way
for 3,277 rushing yards, 34 touchdowns, and allowing a mere three
sacks, it's time to give the Minnesota system and the O line its
Head coach: Glen Mason
10th year: 58-50
21st year overall :117-114-1
Off. 12, Def. 15., ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 20
Best UM Players
1. TE Matt Spaeth, Sr.
2. DE Steve Davis, Soph.
3. RB Amir Pinnix, Jr.
4. QB Bryan Cupito, Sr.
Tony Brinkhaus, Jr.
6. OT Joe Ainsile, Sr.
7. SS Dominic Jones, Soph.
8. LB John Shelvin, Jr.
9. WR Ernie Wheelwright, Jr.
10. WR Logan Payne, Sr.
at Kent State
North Dakota State
at Ohio State
at Michigan State
2005 Record: 7-5
2005 predicted wins
Purdue W 42-35 2OT
at Penn State
at Michigan W 23-20
Ohio State L 45-31
at Iowa L 52-28
Music City Bowl
Virginia L 34-31
However, the defense continues to be
a big issue. It simply hasn't had the talent to come through with the
big stop needed in key games against top teams, and when the floodgates
open up, like they did in the loss to Iowa and Penn State last year,
Minnesota can look downright awful.
This year's team has a nice starting 11 on both sides of the ball
with just enough experience and skill to get back to a bowl game if
everyone plays as expected, but there isn't enough depth and, not to
beat this into the ground, a lack of big-time playmakers, especially on
defense. The D line isn't all that big, the back seven isn't all that
fast, and the overall defensive athleticism is lacking compared to other
Big Ten teams.
On offense, Amir Pinnix is the main man with Russell out after problems
with the academic side of the college life. Bryan Cupito is a solid,
veteran quarterback who'll be better than anyone will give him credit
for. The offense will put up numbers, but it's not an attack equipped
for the firefights it'll get into with some of the top teams.
Mason and his staff are going to get the most out of this group, but
after nine years, the fan base is ready for more. Playing in a pro town
like the Gophers do, there are expectations for success. This isn't
going to be the year Mason gets the team to a top bowl, but a fifth
straight post-season appearance would be nothing to sneer at.
The Schedule: The non-conference schedule would
be a total joke if it wasn't for the tremendous test at California
sandwiched in between scrimmages against Kent State and Temple. The Big
Ten schedule could be tougher than it might look if Michigan State and
Purdue rebound and really are better than last year. Going on the road
to face Wisconsin and Ohio State are brutal, while a stretch of
Michigan, Penn State, and the trip to Madison will make the North
Dakota State game a godsend. The Gophers get a
bad break by missing Illinois and Northwestern.
Offensive Player: Senior TE Matt Spaeth. He might not catch enough
passes to be a serious Mackey Award candidate, but there are few
better blocking tight ends. The 6-6, 270-pound senior has the hands
to be used more in the passing attack.
Sophomore DE Steve Davis. While he's a bit undersized at
6-2 and 230 pounds, the outside linebacker/end will be the team's
top pass rusher. He had a strong first season as one of the few
bright spots when it came to getting into the backfield, and he'll
have to be even better this year as the only returning starter up
player to a successful season: Junior RB Amir Pinnix. With
Laurence Maroney leaving school early to be an NFL first round pick,
and Gary Russell having a problem getting to class, Pinnix will be
the main man in the high-octane Gopher running attack. He has the
quickness and the trust of the coaching staff, but he'll have to
prove he can be durable enough to carry the offense.
season will be a success if ... Minnesota wins seven games and
goes to another bowl. There are enough layups to have a nice base of
four wins, and then there need to be some home upsets and an upset
on the road at someplace like Purdue or Michigan State.
game: Nov. 18 vs. Iowa. No matter how good the Gophers have been
in recent years, the regular season has ended on a sour note against
the Hawkeyes. With five straight losses in the battle for the Floyd
of Rosedale trophy, bottoming out with a 52-28 loss in Iowa City
last year, Minnesota needs to come up with the win in the dome.
- Sacks: Minnesota 15 for 83 yards - Opponents 3 for 17 yards
- Minnesota opponent first quarter scoring: 58 - Minnesota opponent
fourth quarter scoring: 116
- Minnesota rushing attempts: 610. Lost fumbles, 6
The Last Time Minnesota…
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Music City Bowl vs. Virginia)
…missed a bowl game…2001
…pitched a shutout…2004 (Illinois)
…was shutout…1997 (Iowa)
…scored 50 points…2005 (Colorado State)
…won a conference title…1967 (share, Big Ten)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…never
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Laurence Maroney and Gary Russell)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2000 (Ron Johnson)
…had a first-round draft choice…2005 (RB Laurence Maroney)