With 5:14 left to play, Tyler Biadasz snapped the ball on 2nd and 7. The badgers got a gift when Emmit Carpenter missed a 28 yard FG to keep the score at 23-7 two plays earlier, but time was running out and the hosts needed a miracle. The best QB that wisconsin could find over the course of multiple season, Alex Hornibrook, took the snap and started to look downfield. But before he could even get to the top of his drop, DE Carter Coughlin hit him and stripped the ball. LB Thomas Barber came out of the pile with the ball, and on the very next play 4th string RB Bryce Williams broke a tackle (a rather common occurrence for the Gophers during this game) and jogged 23 yards for what would be the nail in the coffin. 14 years of every single bad break and dumb coaching decision had led to losses, and that streak was no more. Minnesota marched into camp randall needing a win to be bowl eligible in what was one of the more entertaining and stupid seasons I can remember, and they spent an afternoon manhandling the idiots to the East in a cathartic victory.
The Gophers would go on to rip through Georgia Tech like they were possessed by Wm T. Sherman in the historic Quick Lanes Bowl, which is nearly as preposterous to me as the domination of wisconsin and Purdue was over the last 4 games of the season. This team was also the same one that beat Fresno State in September and hung on to beat Indiana on a Friday night in October that was sandwiched between the two very worst (non-Brewster coached) games of Gopher football I have ever seen. Two other October games against Nebraska and Illinois produced 1,300 yards of offense for our opponents and unfounded optimism that they could be good this year just because they beat the hell out of a horrifically schemed defense. Losses to Iowa, Ohio State, and Northwestern could have gone either way with more consistent (or any consistent) QB play, and the less I say about the Maryland game the better. Turtle friends, I beg that you please stop hurting Antoine Winfield Jr. He’s awesome and fun and I really want to see what he can do over a stretch of 5 games at a time.
But now the calendar has turned from 2018 to 2019, and it’s time to take a look at what the fall should have in store for everyone’s favorite team that walloped the everloving hell out of bucky last fall. What should we expect from a team that rode an incredible roller coaster to 7-6 last year? Let’s take a look.
The Offense: Everything is set...except QB.
So let’s take a quick look at what’s returning, shall we?
RB? 518 of 524 carries are back. The leader of that group was 3rd stringer SO Mo Ibrahim, who gathered 1160 yards last season. 3rd stringer? Oh yeah, that’s right. Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks are both coming back from injury to form what will be a disgustingly loaded backfield.
WR and TE? 187 of 190 catches are back, including stud SR Tyler Johnson and insanely talented SO Rashod Bateman. Joining these two and SO WR Chris Autman-Bell will be RS FR TE Brevyn Spann-Ford. Seriously, keep an eye out for him. He’s going to be a really fun mismatch.
OL? Well would you look at that? We’ve finally found a key contributor that left! Donnell Greene was an anchor that could be counted on, but he did miss the bowl game to get healthy. In that time away we got to see what could be the future with Blaise Andries joining up with really really gigantic Aussie Daniel Faalele and just normal gigantic Floridian Curtis Dunlap. Throw in Jason Dickson and whomever ends up at C and you’ve got a really talented group up front.
And now I’ve put it off long enough. QB. Tanner Morgan and Zack Annexstad are both returning for their Sophomore seasons. Both were OK at times and meh at other times, and both have their upsides and downsides. Morgan is steadier, but isn’t going to be a guy that’s going to try to make big plays. Annexstad may make more mistakes, but he’s got a bigger arm. One of these guys needs to take the job and make it his own. I don’t even really care, because FR Jacob Clark should take it from both of them next season but we don’t need to even talk about that right now.
Time To Get Defensive
Remember how nearly everyone returns on offense? Good. That means I don’t need to teach you how this song is going to go because it’s pretty similar, although not quite the same. One thing to know is that new defensive coordinator Joe Rossi would need to try to be worse than Robb Smith was, and even then I doubt he could accomplish that Herculean task.
The DL needs to replace O.J. Smith and Gary Moore in the middle, but brought in another transfer in former ND DT Micah Dew-Treadway to be a large body that eats OL and keeps LBs clean. Carter Coughlin returns to torment opposing QBs one last time, and recruiting the past couple seasons has more than a couple guys ready to break into the lineup and get their shot.
The loss of former walk-on Blake Cashman is going to really hurt. He had a real nose for the ball, but there’s still plenty of experience returning with Kamal Martin and Thomas Barber, along with newcomers Thomas Rush, Braelen Oliver, and James Gorden IV. This position group has the potential to be really special yet again.
The DBs are the key to the defense. The loss of the Huff twins, Jacob and Julian, needs to be offset by the return of Antoine Winfield Jr., as well as the continued growth of SO CB Terell Smith. There are a number of other players that played quite a bit last season, and how well these players mesh will define how well things go.
Let’s Take A Look At That Schedule...and...OH MY GOODNESS YES!
2019 Minnesota Golden Gopher Football Schedule
|Aug 29||South Dakota State|
|Aug 29||South Dakota State|
|Sept 7||at Fresno State|
|Sept 14||Georgia Southern|
|Sept 21||University of Minnesota Police Department|
|Sept 28||at Purdue|
|Oct 19||at Rutgers|
|Nov 9||Penn State|
|Nov 16||at Iowa|
|Nov 23||at Northwestern|
|Dec 7||B1G Championship Game|
|Jan 1||Rose Bowl|
Holy hell, that’s...that’s just what the doctor ordered. The non-conference is frisky, yet manageable. The crossover games are very friendly with a talented yet changing PSU coming here. And in the West? Going to Iowa will be a blast, and the trip to Northwestern is probably the toughest conference game this year. But as a whole? Much like 2016, this is an opportunity to make hay. But unlike 2016, the talent is much better than it was and the team isn’t coached by an outstanding defensive coordinator that was totally and wholly overmatched as a head coach (HI TRACY!). Get excited, Gopher fans. But...make sure you have enough whiskey just in case.
So Let’s Put A Bow On This
When talking to a Minnesota fan, do mention: The Axe, Tyler Johnson, Carter Coughlin, Daniel Faalele, Joe Rossi, P.J. Fleck, how awesome fall games at TCF Bank Stadium are, how crazy the West could be this fall. Oh, and how awesome Pasadena looks (assuming somebody from the East gets into the playoff.)
When talking to a Minnesota fan, do not mention: You know what? Come on over and talk to us. There’s not much going poorly right now, and we’d probably even laugh about the idiocy of Tim Brewster, Tracy Claeys, and Robb Smith.