Minnesota moves on after Dakota debacle

Tim Brewster often gets criticized for putting a positive spin on everything, but the Minnesota coach was brutally honest about what happened last week against South Dakota.

"It's a game in which we should have won," he said Tuesday. "There's no excuse for us to lose that football game. ... It’s a game we expected to win. The reality is we didn't win it."

A 41-38 loss to the FCS Coyotes wiped away any momentum Minnesota generated from its season-opening win at Middle Tennessee. The calls for Brewster's firing have intensified in the Twin Cities, and a former Gophers All-American described the program's current state as "shameful" in an interview with the (St. Paul) Pioneer Press.

Suddenly, those preseason predictions of 2-10 for Minnesota don't seem overly harsh. But Brewster hasn't lost faith in his team.

Check out this tidbit of bravado he shared on the Big Ten coaches' teleconference.

"One game is not going to define us," he said. "It's one game of 13 games we're going to play this season."

As you know, Minnesota is only guaranteed to play 12 contests, but Brewster believes the Gophers will go bowling for the third consecutive season.

To do so, Minnesota can't let the South Dakota loss linger.

"I'm certainly not going to let our team be down," Brewster said. "That's one game in the season. The attitude's fine on our football team. There's great conviction. And there's a great urgency, knowing just how good a football team Southern Cal is."

Oh, yeah, forgot to mention Minnesota hosts No. 18 USC on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium (ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET).

If the Gophers made South Dakota quarterback Dante Warren look like an All-American last week, think what Matt Barkley and his receivers will do Saturday. USC hasn't been exactly dominant in its first two victories, but Barkley ranks 12th nationally in pass efficiency, tossing seven touchdown passes and no interceptions.

He takes aim at a defense that surrendered 444 yards to South Dakota and Warren, who accounted for 433 of those yards in just his second career start.

"They look like the USC that I've always seen: big, physical, strong, fast on defense, and an outstanding quarterback in Matt Barkley," Brewster said. "You certainly have your hands full when you’re playing a football team as talented as they are. I don't know if there's any great time to play 'em, but I do know this: we're excited about the opportunity to get a chance to measure ourselves against a team like Southern Cal."

Minnesota has played 11 first-year starters on defense for the first two games, a significant factor in the struggles against South Dakota. But help arrives Saturday as senior safety Kyle Theret makes his season debut after being suspended for the first two contests.

Safety Kim Royston (leg) won't play against the Trojans, but Theret brings two and a half years of starting experience to the secondary. Theret has recorded nine career interceptions, including two in his last game, the 2009 Insight Bowl.

"We've got a great opportunity on Saturday," Brewster said.