Fri Nov 12 09:05am EST
Nothing says "We're giving up on this season" like firing the head coach after seven games, and Minnesota has responded accordingly: The Golden Gophers are 0-3 since Tim Brewster was shown the door following a 1-6 start, are double-digit underdogs in their last two games and are probably not going to retain any of the remaining coaching staff under Brewster's successor. The entire operation is the embodiment of "lame duck."
Nowhere is that more true than on the offensive line, where the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that assorted injuries have left an already thin group with a grand total of five viable bodies – just enough to field a starting lineup Saturday at Illinois, with literally no backups. And still, interim coach Jeff Horton can't bring himself to pull redshirts from the freshman reserves for the sake of a team that's already given up all hope:
Yes, the Gophers have zero backup lineman for Saturday's game with Illinois, a situation that coach Jeff Horton admits makes him a little uncomfortable. "We can't get any thinner, we really can't," Horton said. "We'll just try to make it work."
One thing Horton ruled out once again is asking freshmen to forego a season of eligibility by giving up their redshirts this late in the year. The Gophers have five future offensive lineman sitting out the year, and "it wouldn't be fair to the kids" to ask that kind of sacrifice.
A commendable move, especially for a short-timer who's probably looking for a new job in three weeks and will never see the fruits of his restraint at here. It's not like Horton can't use them: Contingency plans if anyone goes down in Champaign include throwing a tight end or defensive lineman with a sliver of o-line experience into the mix, and possibly asking injured starter Dom Alford – a fifth-year senior who's likely at the end of his on-field career – to suit up as an emergency option, on the off chance his bum knee will somehow allow him into the game at some point.
But the freshmen ... no. No, we cannot sacrifice them to the misery that we have created. Some of us may be lost, forever traumatized by what we have seen and done here. But the children, they can still save the future.
- - -
Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.