This is all you need to know about where the Minnesota football program stands right now.
Twice the Golden Gophers faced fourth-and-1 in the second half against a MAC defense on Saturday night, and twice they came up short. That's simply unacceptable for a program priding itself on a "Pound the Rock" mantra and a pro-style offense that still leaves many scratching their heads. If you want to be a tough football team, you convert those plays. End of story.
Not only did Minnesota struggle to run the ball, but the Gophers couldn't stop Chad Spann and the Northern Illinois rushing attack in a 34-23 Huskies victory. Spann racked up 223 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, including a 61-yard scoring burst to put away the game midway through the fourth quarter. I know Minnesota is young on defense, but the breakdowns just can't happen.
You have to feel for Gophers quarterback Adam Weber, who had another big passing performance (373 yards, 2 TDs). Weber deserves a better situation than he's got right now in Minneapolis. A lack of discipline hurt the Gophers, who were flagged nine times for 59 yards.
Under Glen Mason, Minnesota was the program that beefed up on nonconference wins and eeked its way into bowl games. Things are worse now, as the Gophers have dropped three consecutive nonconference home games for the first time since 1898. The calls for Tim Brewster's head are increasing, and the fourth-year coach needs a major turnaround to make them go away.
Big Ten play beckons, and it doesn't get any easier for Minnesota, which has the league's toughest home slate (Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa and Northwestern).