Call me Lt. Daniel Kaffee if you must. If it was me standing there, yelling at Col. Nathan Jessep, demanding the truth, and he yelled back at me "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!" He'd be right. I can't handle the truth, not today.
Here are the facts:
The Gophers finished the season 6-6, which happens to be exactly where a lot of people thought they would end up.
Unless you believed Graham, Law Buck and Bama Hawk. And if you did, I'm sorry.
The Gophers beat Syracuse, Air Force, Northwestern, Purdue, Michigan State and South Dakota State. They were absolutely expected to win 5 of those games, with Michigan State being the trump card. They lost to Cal, Wisconsin, Penn State, Ohio State, Illinois and Iowa. Five of those teams are very good teams. Illinois is the game that stings the most.
So, the facts can be summed up as such: The Gophers finished the season with the record that many people felt they would, they won the games that they were supposed to win, most of the games they lost were to better teams, and they didn't do enough in the fence games to get them past a .500 record.
Now the truth...
I told you, I am having trouble swallowing this part... you know, the truth. The truth about the Gopher football team is something that we probably should have realized when we struggled with Purdue (yes, I said struggled even though we won by 15). It was painfully obvious when we were shut out by PSU, and again when we laid a proverbial second half egg against OSU.
But then came Sparty, who rolled into The Bank with a 5-4 record, just like us, and seemed like a pretty good team. The Gophers were all over the Spartans on Halloween putting up 42 points while Adam Weber threw for 416 yards and 5 TD's. And suddenly, as a fan, I forgot all about struggling with Purdue, and getting crushed by PSU and OSU. I thought maybe we had broken out of our shell.
Boy was I wrong.
You see, what I should have come to grips with after Purdue, and without question after PSU and OSU, was the fact that our football team is not good. We just aren't. You want the truth, that's the truth. And like I said in the title to this post, I can't handle the truth.
I can't handle the truth because this was supposed to be the year that, even though we might finish with a poorer record than 2008, we might be a better football team who just ran into a tougher schedule. In Tim Brewster's third season we were supposed to be a better football team, no matter what our record ended up being.
I can't handle the truth because even though we finished about where we were expected to, it sure didn't feel like it. The fact is, when we won, we often won ugly (Syracuse, AF, Purdue, SDSU), and when we lost, we sometimes lost even uglier. Our best efforts were against Cal & Northwestern (1-1), our worst efforts were against PSU & SDSU (1-1). No matter how you slice it, we're a .500 team.
I can't handle the truth because I firmly believe that this Gopher football program is the most talented that we have seen, top to bottom, in the last decade. We maybe didn't have the superstars that some of the past Gopher teams had (Barber, Maroney), but I still believe that top to bottom we have the most talented team we've had in a long time. You can't look at this Gopher team and tell me that we don't have the best defense that we've had in a generation. You can't look at this Gopher team and tell me that we don't have the most talented receiving group that we've had in a decade.
I can't handle the truth because a coaching staff that is supposed to be young and aggressive and creative and enterprising couldn't figure out just what the hell to do with all of that talent. Hayo Carpenter was the top rated JUCO WR in the nation... where was he all year? MarQueis Gray was the second rated dual-threat QB in the country coming out of HS (the top rated just happens to be the starter for the conference champions)... and he barely got a sniff of the field. This coaching staff had ZERO idea how to use the talent that it had patted itself on the back for recruiting.
I can't handle the truth because a Gopher offense that has been our strength since the Mason era, a Gopher offense that was supposed to be the strength of our team last year, a third year starter at QB, an aggressive head coach and a wunderkind offensive coordinator spent an entire season showing nothing but ineptitude and not holding up its end of the bargain as the Gopher defense went out and did work nearly every week.
I can't handle the truth because I really wanted to believe that Tim Brewster was the right man for this program. Not only did I want to believe it, I did believe it. But I'm not so sure anymore. He came in guns blazing, hitting the recruiting trail, saying all of the things that those of us who were thirsty for a change wanted to hear. But none of it has translated to W's on the field.
But mostly I can't handle the truth because the results that we got with the previous regime, the results that we thought we were working to put behind us, are staring us right in the face yet again. A .500 record, meeting the very lowest expectations, beating only the teams you are supposed to beat, a mid-tier bowl game... this has been Gopher football for the past 10 years.
And that is Gopher football yet again this year. Not an easy truth for a die-hard fan to swallo.