Archive for Sunday, October 30, 2005

Commentary: Gophers need some couch time

October 30, 2005


— This would be a good chance for students in the psychology department to get some on-the-job training.

Send them over to work with the Minnesota football team, which is in serious need of therapy. The Gophers have issues. If they don't work through them, their season could become a train wreck.

Here's the problem: The season already feels like a disaster. It feels like a failure. The coaching staff is one big grimace. The players appear semi-depressed.

"We're 5-3," coach Glen Mason said. "Right now, it doesn't feel, to anybody associated with our organization, like we're 5-3. Probably because of how we self-destructed against Wisconsin, and maybe what could have been today."

Well, I'm not sure about that last part. Ohio State clearly was the better team Saturday in its 45-31 victory at the Metrodome, although the Gophers hung in there. But two straight losses sandwiched around a bye week have the players feeling like, well, losers. This is a heavy psychological burden.

"They're down as down could be," Mason said.

The reality is they could still have a halfway decent season. But they are going to have to shake their doldrums.

Mason might try crushing an empty beer can against his forehead. Seeing someone do that always cheers me up. Or, maybe he could stick pencils in his ears and make a funny face. That gets me every time, too.

Somehow, he's got to get his players to look to the future and not wallow in their miserable recent past.

"Yeah, you look at it like a regular person and you're 5-3 with wins over Michigan and Purdue and you're pretty happy," safety John Pawielski said. "We feel like disappointments. We're 18- to 22-year-old kids. We've had a couple of tough losses, and it's hard not to look back."

The Wisconsin game was an unnatural disaster. But Saturday, the Gophers' disappointment stemmed from gaining an amazing 578 yards against a tough Ohio State defense, rallying for a 17-17 halftime tie and still seeing the Buckeyes pull away in the second half.

Minnesota got beat on special teams, which is always tough to swallow. The Ohio State special teams were fabulous, repeatedly giving the offense good field position.

"As of lately, it doesn't even seem like we've won five games," linebacker John Shevlin said.

Whoa, lie down on the couch and tell a second-year psych major all about it. Get it out of your system before traveling this weekend to Indiana. Otherwise, prepare to get beat up by the Hoosiers.

Granted, athletes always are down after a defeat. But the Gophers appeared to be well beyond that Saturday. Clearly, they were disappointed to the point of almost being crushed. Whatever the coaching staff fed them about being able to beat the Buckeyes, they ingested it whole.

It's time to start pumping them up again - substituting "Indiana" for "Ohio State" during the midweek pep talks.

"There is still a lot of football to be played," Mason said. "If you keep looking in the rearview mirror, that's where you will go - backwards. You have to shake this off and march forward."

Mason commended his team's effort against Ohio State. It was the results that bothered him.

"I love these kids," he said. "I do."

Then he's going to have to buy them an ice cream cone, pat them on the back and get them to leave this gloom behind them. Maybe he can talk them through it. Maybe he can get help from the psych majors.

"It all started when I was 5 years old and somebody stole my football ..."


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