It was bad enough that the Gophers were a double-digit underdog Oct. 6 to a team it hung 63 points on in a 37-point victory last season.
But if there was any doubt about how dire things truly are this season, it became obvious in an embarrassing 40-20 loss at Indiana that left the Gophers equally dejected and frustrated.
“It’s embarrassing going out here and losing like we have been,” redshirt quarterback Adam Weber said.
The Gophers were so badly outplayed in all phases that the final score could have and should have been even more lopsided. The loss gave the Gophers (1-5 overall, 0-3 Big Ten) their worst start since 1992 and dropped their overall record at Indiana to 6-19.
They also made dubious history in the process. Minnesota has now allowed 30 points in seven consecutive games, including the Insight Bowl last season. That is the longest such stretch in program history, which dates to 1882.
“It’s obviously disappointing,” senior center Tony Brinkhaus said. “Anyway you look at it, we got outplayed.”
Even first-year coach Tim Brewster had his eternal optimism tested.
“You know I’m an extremely positive and optimistic kind of guy, but I have to wait and see the tape before I can find some optimism,” he said.
Indiana scored points on its first seven possessions (not counting a kneel down right before halftime), got two sacks and two interceptions from its defense and a big play from special teams and really had no problem avenging last season’s 63-26 drubbing. The Hoosiers finished with 463 total yards (228 rushing, 235 passing) and got four field goals from Austin Starr.
The same old issues were evident again for the Gophers. Their tackling was dismal, the running game was mostly quiet (112 yards rushing) and Weber had another roller-coaster performance (24-of-44 passing for 280 yards, one touchdown with two interceptions.)
The Gophers gave up 199 yards in the first quarter alone, 274 in the first half and trailed 27-14 at halftime.
GAME BALL GOES TO: DE Willie VanDeSteeg — Playing with a broken right wrist and a bad shoulder, he collected his first sack of the season and three tackles for loss in an otherwise dismal performance by the defense.
KEEP AN EYE ON: TB Jay Thomas — Injuries to the top two tailbacks opened the door for the speedy Thomas, who rushed for 58 yards on eight carries. His role might expand this week if Duane Bennett (right leg) and Amir Pinnix (turf toe) remain less than 100 percent.
LOOKING GOOD: It’s never a good thing when your punter gets headlines, but Minnesota’s Justin Kucek continues to be solid. Ranked second in the Big Ten going into the game, Kucek averaged 44 yards on five punts, including one placed inside the 20.
WR Ernie Wheelwright caught seven passes for 101 yards.
FS Kyle Theret, a true freshman, grabbed his second interception and returned it 34 yards.
STILL NEEDS WORK: The defense continues to be a major issue. The Gophers allowed at least 30 points for the seventh-consecutive game (dating to last season), which is a school record. They also gave up 400-plus yards for the eighth-consecutive game.
QB Adam Weber threw two more interceptions, increasing his season total to 12.
RB Amir Pinnix, a senior who was expected to be among the Big Ten’s top tailbacks, continues to struggle. Battling a turf toe injury, Pinnix rushed for only 26 yards on six carries. The coaching staff thought Pinnix could crack 1,500 yards rushing this season, but he only has 469 at the season’s halfway point.
ROSTER REPORT: Freshman tailback Duane Bennett watched the second half from the sideline with a protective boot on his right leg. He limped off the field after scoring on a one-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. His injury does not appear to be too serious.
Middle linebacker Mike Sherels has a hamstring injury but should be able to play.
Backup linebacker Nate Triplett suffered a shoulder stinger.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I don’t know if it’s a step backward. I’m going to be positive. But we all understand it’s about winning. We’re not looking for moral victories, or anything but [wins]. We came in here expecting to win.” — Minnesota coach Tim Brewster on the loss.