Posted by Adam Jacobi
Minnesota dropped their third game in a row on Saturday, losing 34-23 to presumptive MACrifice Northern Illinois. That's three consecutive losses to non-conference opponents, making Minnesota the first team in Big Ten history to drop three consecutive non-con games when those three games include one against a I-AA/FCS opponent.
Of course, there isn't a great sample size for that type of "feat"; the Big Ten hasn't been scheduling I-AA/FCS programs for very long, and losses to those types of programs have been conceivable for an even shorter amount of time. But still: this is a new level of futility.
It's gotten so bad for head coach Tim Brewster that fans were chanting "Fire Brewster" during the game, and he certainly didn't do much to dissuade any of them during the loss. He sent his team out twice on 4th and 1; Minnesota was stuffed both times. The Gophers also surrendered a blocked punt with a minute left in the first half -- this led to an NIU touchdown that would give the Huskies a lead they never relinquished -- and Minnesota was also whistled for nine penalties, four more than were the Huskies.
So this loss gets added to the two before it, Brewster's critical comments about the program's spending habits (in a brand new stadium, mind you), the recent disciplinary troubles, and the fans' rather severe loss of patience with the program. At this point, barring an immediate and aberrant turn in fortunes, Minnesota looks to be a 3-win team, tops. That would put Brewster at 17-33 (8-24) for his Minnesota career, numbers that would earn just about any BCS conference coach a swift firing no matter what the buyout.
In fact, the shame of losing to South Dakota and Northern Illinois in the span of three weeks might get some coaches fired immediately, but ironically, Brewster's temporary saving grace might be his own team's ineptitude. If Minnesota AD Joel Maturi looks at the program, he's going to see middling performance at every position -- meaning Maturi's unlikely to find a current assistant with a track record of success that suggests he'd be any better than Brewster to finish out the season.
But once this season is over, yes, Brewster is a dead lock to be fired; this is a historic level of haplessness, and Brewster's one assumed strength coming into this job (recruiting) has essentially failed to materialize in Minneapolis. The rest of the Big Ten just hopes Maturi doesn't notice that Mike Leach is available.