Instant Analysis - Insight Bowl
Iowa State 14 ... Minnesota 13
Where's Minnesota going?
Head coach Tim Brewster lost his top assistants going into this year and
things might have been different had Biltenikoff-caliber playmaker Eric
Decker stayed healthy all season long (after missing the second half of
last year, too), but the team has no identity, at least a positive one,
it hasn't been consistent, and the program is treading water.
When Brewster arrived, the Gophers were supposed to have a dangerous
spread attack and Brewster's strength was supposed to be in his
salesmanship and as a recruiter. He has a way of selling the program and
he has been positive when he has needed to be, but the offense stunk
this season, the program that used to have one of the most dominant
running games in college football can't run a lick, and the defense,
while vastly improved from a few years ago, can't come up with two
decent games in a row.
Now that the buzz of the new stadium has died down and the failings over
the second half of yet another disappointing season will be more and
more spotlighted, Minnesota needs to decide if it really does want to be
big time, or make a run to be a major player in the Big Ten race.
Brewster isn't getting the job done and the program and the fan base
that needs some semblance of hope has to see something in a coach that
shows that things are on the upswing. For all of his faults, Glen Mason
was able to do that. Brewster hasn't.
Bowl beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In the case of Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads, this year's Insight Bowl was a doggone Picasso.
Sure, to me, you, and three-quarters of the planet, the game between Iowa State and Minnesota was hardly a reason to suspend your New Year's Eve celebrations. Rhoads, naturally, sees it a little differently. As unappealing as this 14-13 slopfest may have been, it was a really big deal for the coach and the folks in Ames. To understand, you need a quick history lesson.
When Rhoads took this job a year ago, the Cyclones were in complete disarray, losing Gene Chizik to Auburn and riding a 10-game losing streak that began in the middle of September. He didn't see a whole lot of talent, yet he was thrilled to be back in his home state of Iowa. What others saw as a graveyard, Rhoads viewed as a rebirth of sorts and an opportunity to fulfill a dream. His passion for the program was immediately felt by the players, who've responded with a five-game improvement from 2008 and that bowl win that no one expected when the season started.
No disrespect to Chizik, but Rhoads views Iowa State as his destination job, which is exactly what the school needs in order to remain competitive in the Big 12 going forward. He won't routinely beat out Iowa for the state's best prospect and he'll always be well behind the likes of Nebraska, Texas, and Oklahoma in terms of overall depth and star power. That's reality. However, by guiding the ‘Clones to a postseason win, any postseason win, the kid from Ankeny almost single-handedly created momentum where it hasn't been in years. This is one of those ideal marriages between a school and a coach that's going to benefit all involved.
An ugly win in Tempe on Thursday night? It depends who you ask. If it's Rhoads, you'll have to forgive him if he rolls his eyes at that notion.
1) Now THIS is why there are indeed too many bowls. Two 6-6 teams served up the kind of slopfest that doesn't make a college football fan or pundit very Insight-ful. The bad quarterbacking mojo of Sun Devil Stadium – home to a sputtering Arizona State offense over the past couple of years – must have rubbed off on Iowa State and Minnesota.
Therefore, along with the St. Pete, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Little Caesar's, Meineke, Emerald, EagleBank, Champs Sports, Armed Forces, and Texas Bowls (among the postseason games that have already been played; there are a few more on Jan. 2 who could test people's patience…), the Insight Bowl certainly represents an event that did not feature considerable quality in 2009. Another common thread which unites all the bowls listed above is that they do not possess the longevity that makes a bowl game special. Yes, Iowa State brought a ton of fans to Tempe, Ariz., but two 6-6 teams who finished 3-5 in their respective conferences played to their level of (minimal) quality. There's a reason this game was on NFL Network. It was a blessing to have missed it on the tube. Six turnovers? The new year is a happy one because this dud is done and dusted.
2) Um, wasn't Glen Mason fired as Minnesota's head coach after a bad loss in the 2006 Insight Bowl to Texas Tech and a certain ex-head coach named Mike Leach? Tim Brewster has the Golden Gophers back where they started three seasons ago. One has the distinct impression that Minnesota – a participant in three of the past four Insight Bowls – won't want to return to the eastside suburb of Phoenix. The Gophers are now 0-3 in the Valley of the Sun.