Archive for the ‘Minnesota Golden Gophers’ Category

Next Saturday, P.J. Fleck’s 10-1 Golden Gophers face off against Paul Chryst’s Wisconsin Badgers for the Big Ten West division championship. The game will be played at TCF Bank Stadium on the U of M campus. The game will be sold out, if it isn’t already. Let’s trot out the clichés. This is for all the marbles. It’s winner-take-all. Both teams will leave it all on the field. The Gophers will be defending their division lead and Paul Bunyan’s axe. This might be the first time that’s ever happened in this storied rivalry’s history.

On top of all that, ESPN’s College Game Day will be on the U of M campus all week. Excitement will be everywhere. Beyond that, though, there will be a fight between 2 college titans. This isn’t new for Wisconsin. It’s definitely new for the Gophers, though. They defeated Wisconsin in Madison last year, snapping a 14-game rivalry losing streak in the process.

The Gophers bounced back from last week’s loss to Iowa by defeating Northwestern 38-22. The Gophers’ stars definitely shined offensively. Tanner Morgan was a modest (for him) 15 of 23 for 211 yards, 1 interception and 4 TDs. Rashod Bateman, one of the elite wideouts in the nation, caught 3 of Morgan’s TD passes:

Morgan’s other TD pass went to Tyler Johnson:

Both these receivers high-point the ball exceptionally well. They both run precision routes, too. The Badgers’ secondary will have its hands full next Saturday.

Last year, the Gophers went into Madison and won 37-15. Rest assured that the Badgers will have revenge on their minds. They’ll want to return the favor in Minnesota. The kickoff will be at 2:40 pm. CT. The forecast is for 35 degrees with a chance of flurries. KSTP will cover the game. Check in with LFR all week with updates. It isn’t hyperbole to say this is the biggest Gopher game in 50+ years.

Gopher football fans should start their prayers by saying ‘As long as I’m up here already’ because the team and the fans should be excited. For the first time since 1904, the Gophers have started 9=0.In 1904, there were 5 fewer states in the nation than there are now. 19 1904, Hawaii, Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma were still territories.

The stars of today’s game against the Nittany Lions were Tanner Morgan, Antoine Winfield Jr., Rashod Bateman, Tyler Johnson and the offensive line as a unit. Tanner Morgan was the star of the game, completing 18 of 20 passes for 339 yards, 3 touchdowns, no interceptions for a passer rating of 281.9 (That isn’t a typo. Check it out for yourself.)

Rashod Bateman was targeted 7 times. He caught all 7 passes while finishing with 203 yards. That’s a 29.0 yard average per catch. Bateman’s partner in crime today was Tyler Johnson. Johnson caught 7 passes, too, for 104 yards. Antoine Winfield Jr., the son of NFL great Antoine Winfield, intercepted 2 passes today, which Minnesota turned into a pair of touchdowns. Here’s a good highlight tape of today’s game:

Give Penn State tons of credit, too. Trailing 24-13 at the half, Penn State held the Gophers to 7 points in the second half while scoring 13 points themselves. In the end, the Gophers’ defense finished off the victory by intercepting the ball in the end zone.

While the Gophers’ offensive line didn’t open up big holes for the runners, they kept quarterback Tanner Morgan clean in the pocket pretty much all day. How pressured can the QB be when he completes 18 of 20 passes for 339 yards? Remember, too, this was against a pretty talented Penn State defense.

Before today, the analysts praised PJ Fleck’s team right up until they’d say something like ‘but we don’t know how good they are because they haven’t beaten a great team.’ After today, the experts can say that the Gophers deserve their high ranking because they beat a very good Penn State team.

For most of the life of this blog, I’ve advocated for politicians to ditch their jargon. Instead, I’ve argued that politicians should use the language of Main Street. This morning, while perusing RealClealPolitics, I gained a powerful ally in Scott Rasmussen. To avoid any confusion, I’ll first state that I met Scott Rasmussen last summer at the RightOnline Conference. That meeting, coupled with his many TV appearances, proved that he’s a man who uses Main Street Speak.

Here’s what Scott Rasmussen wrote that caught my attention:

This gap was highlighted by a recent Pew Research Center poll showing that “for 18 of 19 programs tested, majorities want either to increase spending or maintain it at current levels.”

On the surface, those results appear to support the Political Class conceit that voters like spending cuts in the abstract but not in specific programs. That’s the way it was reported by most media outlets.

But the reality is quite different. The Pew results actually show support for what official Washington would consider massive spending cuts.

Just to be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Pew poll questions or results. The raw numbers are similar to what we find at Rasmussen Reports. The problem is with the way the numbers were reported.

The questions were asked using the language of America, but they were reported using the language of the Political Class.

To most Americans, maintaining spending at current levels would mean spending the same amount in 2013 as we spent in 2012. However, to those experienced in the mysterious ways of Washington, maintaining spending at current levels means spending $3.5 trillion this year and $4.5 trillion in five years. To most Americans, that’s a trillion dollars in spending growth.

The Political Class, on the other hand, would consider holding spending unchanged at current levels to be a massive spending cut. Why? Because it wouldn’t allow for the trillion dollar spending growth that is already built into the budget.

Normal people don’t expect pay raises on autopilot. The federal government does.

Washington, DC would throw a hissy fit if they were forced to use zero-based budgeting instead of using baseline budgeting. Without baseline budgeting helps DC pay off their political allies. Zero-based budgeting wouldn’t let that happen. That’s why politicians and lobbyists insist on baseline budgeting. Frankly, it makes their jobs easier.

Speaking candidly, I don’t want to make life easy for politicians or lobbyists. I’d prefer they have to justify every penny of their spending. That’s the only way to guarantee that every penny of the taxpayers’ money is spent wisely.

Thanks, Scott, for speaking so clearly on this important issue. Let’s just hope it’s contageous.

Following Saturday’s game against Purdue, I was left wondering where this Gophers team was hiding all season. It seems like the Gophers are finally finding their stride.

Saturday’s game was one of the most dominant performances I’ve watched. Devoe Joseph, forced into the starting lineup when Al Nolen was declared academically ineligible, ran the offense smoothly while contributing 10 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson III dominated inside, with Sampson leading the Gophers with 13 points, followed by Iverson contributing 11 points.

Most importantly, the Gophers’ defense was stifling. Damian Johnson and Paul Carter took turns terrorizing Purdue with their athleticism on defense. Iverson and Sampson altered shots all day while usally limiting Purdue to one shot. Most of Purdue’s shots chipped paint off the rim. Purdue finished the day with a 27.6 percent shooting percentage.

So dominant was their defense that, with 4 minutes left in the first half, CBS announcers Clark Kellogg and Jim Nantz were still wondering if Purdue would break Northwestern’s record for fewest points in the first half. That’s because the Gophers forced Purdue into an 11 minute scoring drought in the first half. For the record, Northwestern still holds the record with 6 points in the first half. A late Purdue ‘burst’ helped them finish the half with 11 points.

Another piece of proof that the Gophers’ defense was dominant came from the fact that, with 4 minutes left in the game, the Gophers first half total was more than Purdue had for the entire game.

Simply put, there was so much proof of Minnesota’s defensive dominance that I’m not even close to citing all the different pieces of proof. In fact, I haven’t said nearly enough about Damian Johnson’s and Paul Carter’s defense. Suffice it to say that their defense all but eliminated Purdue’s E`Twaun Moore’s drives. Moore finished the game with 1 field goal in 14 attempts.

Right now, the Gophers are playing with an incredible amount of poise offensively and defensively. They’re also playing with alot of energy. The great thing about Saturday’s game was that the Gophers’ starters only played an average of 22 minutes a game, with Iverson and Carter playing another 40 minutes combined. In other words, Tubby was able to give his starters alot of rest Saturday so they’ll be fresh for Sunday’s Big Ten Championship Game against Ohio State.

It’s too much to ask for the Gophers to play as good of defense as they played Saturday but they should cause Ohio State fits. The other intriguing thing about Ohio State is that they play essentially with 4 wings and a low post person whereas the Gophers play a physical type of game.

Expect Carter and Damian Johnson to have the job of stopping Ohio State supersoph Evan Turner. Turner is talented enough to cause Carter and Johnson fits but the Gophers present their own matchup problems, too. Ohio State doesn’t have an answer for Devoe Joseph, nor do they have the answer for the Gopher Twin Towers of Iverson and Sampson.

It’s just nice to be able to enjoy a dominant Gopher victory over a team that entered the tournament as the 6th ranked team in the nation.

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The best thing that can be said of Penn State was that the Nittany Lions played hard from start to finish. The bad news for Penn State is that they ran into a buzzsaw known as the U of M Golden Gophers in Williams Arena this afternoon. Play-by=play announcer Wayne Larrivee got it exactly right when he said that “the Gophers brought their A+ game today.”

Leading Minnesota’s offensive attack was junior college transfers Devron Bostick & Paul Carter with 19 points & 14 points respectively. This afternoon, the Nittany Lions didn’t have an answer for the Gophers’ athleticism. They didn’t have an answer for the Gophers’ long range bombing, either, as the Gophers hit all 9 of their 3-point attempts.

What changed the game from a comfortable Minnesota win into a blowout, though, was Minnesota’s stifling half-court defense and their full court trap. Time & again, Minnesota’s team speed allowed them to recover from seemingly impossible situations. The highlight of the day was Devron Bostick’s rotation from the free throw lineto the low post to block a Penn State shot from behind, which then led the Gophers to a fast break basket.

It was fitting that forner Gopher great Trent Tucker was the analystyt assigned to today’s game. As a Gopher player, Tucker was a great shooter who often guarded the other team’s best offensive threat. He was obviously impressed with the Gopher’s play on both ends of the court.

It was also fitting that former UVA star Ralph Sampson was in the crowd again today to watch his son play another solid game offensively & defensively.

As with most games this season, the Gophers rattled their opponents into alot of turnovers. Unlike other games, the Gophers hit 62.5% of their shots, including all 9of their 3-point attempts.

Minnesota is now tied with Michigan & Wisconsin for second place behind Michigan State. Minnesota, Michigan & Wisconsin are 3-1 while Michigan State is undefeated at 3-0.

At the start of the year, most outsiders thought that Tubby’s team would be dangerous, though not necessarily consistently competitive. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I though they had enough talent and a nice balance between their offense & their defense.

Two things that I didn’t agree with was that Tubby’s best coaching days were behind him and that the Gophers wouldn’t miss last year’s seniors. At this point, I’d rate Tubby as the frontrunner for Coach of the Year. Frankly, I can’t think of another coach that’s even close right now.

If the Gophers make the Sweet 16, Tubby should win that honor going away.

What should scare Big Ten opponents is next season. This Gophers team is a talented team but they’re adding more Top 20 talent next season. According to, the Gophers are adding the 6th-rated SF in the nation in Rodney Williams and the 11th-rated PF in the nation in Royce White.

I won’t be surprised if Gophers hoops tickets are the hottest ticket in town next year, especially considering Tubby’s coaching, the great atmosphere in Williams Arena & the competitiveness & athleticism of their team. That’s why opponents should fear them when the Gophers play in Williams Arena.

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Anyone who’s read LFR before knows that I’ve been critical of some of the Strib’s columnists in the past. While I’ve been critical of some of their columnists, I’ve been a huge fan of their beat writers for the sports teams. Most of their beat writers also have blogs.

Now they’ve introduced a new sports blog, this one covering the Gophers men’s hoops team. Myron Medcalf’s first post is certainly must reading to any hoops junkie. Here’s the part that’s got me excited:

Some may look at this scenario and recall Tubby’s substitution pattern that he employed during the nonconference portion of the team’s schedule last season. It didn’t work as well in the Big Ten because teams were too deep and talented. He had to keep his best guys on the floor. This season, however, the Gophers are deep. But they have two juco players who didn’t come here to sit. Two second-year players in Al Nolen and Blake Hoffarber who proved their worth last season. Two freshmen, Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson III, who may have the energy and drive to become the squads starting post players. Two returning juniors (Damian Johnson, Lawrence Westbrook) who will probably start. Add in Jon Williams and you have a team that needs good chemistry to make sure every player is content with their role.

This is a year of resurgence for Gophers sports, especially with the Gopher football team already bowl eligible. If Tubby’s team is as good as the experts have predicted, this should be an exciting year, finishing with an NCAA tournament berth.

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According to this KSTP article, Tubby Smith will be the next head basketball coach for the U of M. I officially pronounce this as a dramatic step forward for the Gophers’ basketball program. Smith has a great track record, which includes a national championship while coaching the University of Kentucky Wildcats. Here’s what KSTP is reporting thus far:

Tubby Smith will be named the new head coach of the University of Minnesota basketball team, a source close to the Gopher basketball program tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. The University of Minnesota has not yet commented on the naming.

Smith has been at the University of Kentucky for the last ten years and won a National Championship there. He is considered one of the elite coaches in college basketball.

Early reports are that Smith will be paid $1.8 million per year.

That’s a big salary for a coach but Smith will fill up the Barn in a hurry. He’ll be a great recruiter, too. In other words, the increased revenues brought in by a great program will more than offset his salary. In other words, Smith will put the Gold back in the Golden Gophers.

Earlier this year, Joel Maturi replaced longtime head football coach Glen Mason with Denver Broncos assistant coach Tim Brewster. At the time that he fired Mason, I said that Maturi had to go. Based on the moves he’s made, I fully retract that statement and I congratulate Mr. Maturi on his bringing in two coaches that will raise the profile of sports on the U of M campus.

As I’ve written before, former Gopher Trent Tucker has hinted that he’d like to have an active role in the next coaching staff. In my opinion, he’s perfect for the jobs of recruiting director & assistant coach. Double T knows the game inside & out. He’s worked with several Minnesota high school kids on their game. He’s a close friend of Michael Jordan’s from their time on Chicago’s last NBA Championship team.

Translation: That’s the resume of someone who’d have instant credibility with kids on the recruiting trail.

That will all work itself out in the days ahead, though. The good news for Gopher hoops fans is that our long traverse through the desert is over, thanks to Mr. Maturi’s hiring of Tubby Smith.

UPDATE: I just watched Sportscenter and I’m more excited now than I was earlier tonight. Dick Vitale said that “The winner in all of this is Minnesota. They hit a grand slam baby. They got a Harmon Killebrew special.” I’m normally not a big Vitale fan but I totally agree with him.

Former Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps said that this was a good move by Smith, that the Gophers will be getting a great coach.

Here’s a picture of Tubby Smith arriving at Williams Arena:

FSN North announced after tonight’s Wild game that they will carry the press conference live from Williams Arena at noon Friday. Expect every sports reporter in the Twin Cities to be there for the announcement. Getting a guy of the caliber of Tubby Smith is major news in Minnesota.

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Part of my Sunday night routine is to watch the Sports Show, a gossip show about Minnesota sports. The regulars on the show are Mike Max, who actually owns the show, Sid Hartman, Patrick Reusse & Dark Star. Dark Star wasn’t there tonight. In his stead, Trent Tucker sat in for him. At the start of the third segment, Max kiddingly introduced Trent as the “future assistant coach of the Minnesota Gophers”, then asked if he’d like to make an announcement.

After the laughter subsided, Tucker said that he couldn’t “say anything at this time.” With that out of the way, Max asked him how he’d go about rebuilding the Gophers. Trent Tucker said that you have to go for the best players and that the best players aren’t always on the recruiting lists of the major recruiting publications. He said that he’d try & get the best players, whether they’re from New York, Florida or his home state of Michigan.

The only way Trent would be the assistant coach is if Flip was the head coach. The good news for Gopher fans who’ve suffered through the Monson era is that a coaching team of Flip Saunders & Trent Tucker would have the Barn packed & rocking within 3 years. Trent Tucker is a great student of the game with an NBA championship ring from the Chicago Bulls/Michael Jordan dynasty. He’d also be able to sell kids on Minnesota because they’d be playing in big games & because NBA scouts would pay attention to the Gophers.

Of course, Sid tried painting this as mission impossible & that they wouldn’t have much of a team for years unless they brought in Bob Knight, which is a crock. Flip & Trent Tucker are just as good of coaches as Mr. Knight & they’d be a dynamic recruiting duo.

The good news is that we’ll find out just how good a recruiting duo they are starting next season.

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Saturday afternoon, Mitch Berg predicted a Bears blowout, something that Captain Ed correctly termed as hyperbole. Mind you, Captain Ed likely didn’t mean Al Gore hyperbole but hyperbole nonetheless.

I’m picking the Colts, partly because their defense has played well since Bob Sanders returned to the lineup, partly because Peyton Manning is throwing the ball to a great trio of receivers and partly just because I’ve gotta cheer for Tony Dungy.

Most, if not all, of his players weren’t even born when Tony Dungy first walked onto the U of M campus as a quarterback. In fact, I’d doubt that many of his current players knew that he earned his World Championship ring as a nickel back with the Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty of the 1970’s.

I’m cheering for Tony Dungy because he was also Denny Green’s first defensive coordinator for the Vikings. I’m cheering for Tony Dungy because he took over a pathetic Tampa Bay team that strung together 10 loss seasons as routinely as John Wooden won NCAA basketball championships at UCLA and turned them into eventual Super Bowl champions.

Mostly, I’m cheering because pro sports needs hundreds more Tony Dungys. We need more men like Tony Dungy because of his dignity, his character and his unwavering faith in Jesus Christ. In short, we need more men like Tony Dungy because he’s a great role model at a time when our children look at sports figures as role models.

Everyone would have understood had Dungy walked away from football a year ago after the Colts’ fantasy season came crashing down in defeat and Dungy’s son committed suicide. That he didn’t is testament of Dungy’s resolve & his deep faith. I remember Dungy being asked about how he was handling it. In typical Dungy fashion, he simply said that it was difficult for selfish reasons but that he knew his son was with God because he had accepted Christ as his Savior.

After handling that difficult situation with that much dignity, how can you not cheer for Tony Dungy?

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History was made today in the NFL when Lovie Smith became the first African American head coach to guide his team into the Super Bowl. Hours later, Smith’s former mentor and friend Tony Dungy guided his Indianapolis Colts past Bill Belichick’s Patriots to become the second African American coach to guide his team into the Super Bowl. Tony Dungy isn’t the only Colt to get the proverbial monkey off his back with the win. Peyton Manning displayed a type of poise today that I’d never seen in him before.

Peyton Manning didn’t just show poise in a tightly fought game. Peyton Manning showed poise in completing the biggest comeback victory in NFL championship game history. Early on, Manning and the Colts were missing on at least four of their eight cylinders. When Logan Mankins recovered a botched handoff between Tom Brady and Laurence Mauroney for a Patriot touchdown, announcers Jim Nantz and Phil Simms wondered aloud if this wasn’t more proof that this wouldn’t be Manning’s day.

When Asante Samuel intercepted Manning’s pass and returned it for a touchdown, the Patriot lead was 21-3 with precious few minutes left in the first half. If ever there was a time when you wondered whether Manning would stumble, this was that moment. He didn’t stumble. Instead, he led his team to a field goal just before halftime. Then he guided the Colts to an second half-opening touchdown drive, their first touchdown since the Chiefs playoff game.

After the Colts defense stopped Brady’s bunch, Manning led the Colts on another impressive march, this time capping it off with a 1 yard touchdown pass to defensive lineman Dan Klecko. Klecko was in as a blocker. Instead, he caught the pass on a tackle eligible. Manning hit Marvin Harrison for the dramatic two point conversion.

Tom Brady and company weren’t going to go silently into that good night, at least not without a knuckle-busting fight first. Ellis Hobbs took the ensuing kickoff 80 yards to the Colts 21 yard line. Tom Brady capped the drive with a 6 yard TD pass to Jabar Gaffney, making it 28-21 Patriots.

The Colts then retied the game when center Jeff Saturday recovered running back Dominic Rhodes’ fumble in the end zone, making him the third lineman to score in the game. (Who’s writing this script? Simply unbelievable!!!)

When rookie Stephen Gostkowski drilled a 43-yard field goal, the Patriots led 34-31 and the clock showed just 3:49 left. Manning mixed in a dramatic 52 yard pass play to tight end Dallas Clark with some physical running plays. With the Patriots’ defense reeling, rookie running back Joseph Addai took in the game-winning touchdown with exactly 1 minute left on the clock.

Tom Brady’s last chance at a dramatic comeback victory ended when cornerback Marlin Jackson intercepted Brady’s pass. Jackson returned in a couple yards, then fell to the ground. With the Patriots out of timeouts, Manning took a knee and history was written.

I’m happiest for Tony Dungy, who has strong Minnesota ties, first as the University of Minnesota starting quarterback, then as Denny Green’s first defensive coordinator with the Vikings. If Tony Dungy isn’t the classiest sports figure in Minnesota history, then he’s at least within whispering distance of it. Simply put, Tony Dungy lives his Christian faith for all the world to see in a humble, dignified manner. If you can’t cheer for a man like that, then you’re hopeless.

Congratulations, Tony and Peyton. You’ve earned it. I hope you win it all.

UPDATE: Follow this link to Captain Ed’s post on the game.

Ed, I agree. Colts by 7.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative