A very rough season in Minneapolis ended on a good note with hope for better things ahead.
Minnesota would love to delete most of the 2010 season, as the team endured a nine-game losing streak and became the first FBS squad to fire its coach this fall. Tim Brewster was sent packing in mid October after his team slipped to 1-6.
The Gophers had a multitude of problems, but most traced back to a defense that began the season with 11 new starters. Minnesota ranked last in the Big Ten against the run (191.4 ypg) and struggled to slow down opponents for long stretches. Special teams also were problematic at times, and the offense couldn't translate yards into points. Although quarterback Adam Weber improved upon his poor junior season, he and his teammates struggled to put it all together for victories.
To the Gophers' credit, they never stopped fighting, and interim coach Jeff Horton did a fantastic job keeping the team united. Minnesota finally broke through at Illinois on Nov. 13 and followed it up with an upset victory against Iowa to claim a rivalry trophy for the first time since 2006. Players like receiver/quarterback MarQueis Gray and cornerback Troy Stoudermire finished the season the right way.
It's time for Minnesota to close the book on 2010 and start a new chapter.
Offensive MVP: Adam Weber. The wins didn't come until November, but Weber gave Minnesota chances to win with an improved performance from 2009. He passed for 2,679 yards with 20 touchdown strikes and nine interceptions, and he added 156 rushing yards. Receiver Da'Jon McKnight merits a mention here after tying for the Big Ten lead with 10 touchdown receptions.
Defensive MVP: Gary Tinsley. Tinsley developed into one of the Big Ten's more productive linebackers in 2010. He ranked 10th in the league in tackles per game (7.5) and ranked second on the team with 9.5 tackles for loss. Tinsley added a forced fumble and an interception. Stoudermire, linebacker Mike Rallis and safety Kyle Theret should be mentioned as well.
Turning point: Minnesota never truly recovered from a Week 2 loss to FCS South Dakota State, which scored at will against the Gophers. But Minnesota continued to play hard and had a great chance to open Big Ten play at 1-0 after building a 28-20 fourth-quarter lead against Northwestern on Oct. 2. But the Gophers couldn't hang on and fell 29-28. Two weeks later, Brewster was canned and Minnesota endured five consecutive losses by double digits after the Northwestern defeat.
What's next: Minnesota on Monday introduced Jerry Kill as its new head coach. Kill isn't the big name Gophers fans had hoped for, but he has a track record of turning around programs and brings a more measured approach to Minneapolis after Brewster's promises of Big Ten titles. The rebuilding likely will continue in 2011, but Kill inherits some nice pieces, including Gray and McKnight.