Big Ten: South Dakota Coyotes

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.
Minnesota's last home victory came against South Dakota State on Nov. 14. The score: 16-13.

If only the Gophers could be so lucky against the other team from the Mount Rushmore State.

South Dakota came into TCF Bank Stadium today and stunned Tim Brewster's team 41-38, wiping away any momentum generated from Minnesota's season-opening win at Sun Belt Conference favorite Middle Tennessee.

In the opener, Minnesota held the ball for nearly 46 minutes. Now we know why. The Gophers can't stop anyone.

A defense featuring 11 new starters had no answer for South Dakota and quarterback Dante Warren, who lit up Minnesota for 352 pass yards and three touchdowns and added 81 rushing yards and two scores. Minnesota signal caller Adam Weber did his best, tossing three touchdown passes, and Duane Bennett added 104 rush yards and two scores, but the Gophers aren't really built to win shootouts and shouldn't have been in one against the Coyotes. Kevin Cosgrove's defense simply must get better in a hurry.

Brewster entered the season on the hot seat. Now it's scorching. And USC is coming to town next week.

Ugh.

Minnesota is officially on upset alert against another of those pesky Dakota schools.

A week after FCS North Dakota State shocked Kansas, South Dakota has built a 14-3 lead in the second quarter against Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers seemed to be in control early, marching down the field on their opening drive. But the offense has done little since, and South Dakota is taking advantage of a young Minnesota secondary.

Quarterback Dante Warren already has completed 7 of 10 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. Minnesota has to find a way to stop the Coyotes' air game and get its ground attack going again.

With Northern Illinois and USC coming up, Minnesota simply can't afford a loss today.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

FCS mania continues throughout the Big Ten, and South Dakota continues to be a popular choice for nonconference scheduling.

Northwestern announced Monday it will host South Dakota in 2012, though an exact date has not been determined.

South Dakota also plays Minnesota in 2010 and Wisconsin in 2011. Northwestern has an FCS opponent on the schedule in each of the next four seasons, which won't aid the team's struggles in attendance but should help in the win column.

The Wildcats are upgrading their nonleague schedule during the next few seasons, which is long overdue. The 2012 schedule features home games against both Boston College and Vanderbilt and a trip to Syracuse. 

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Wisconsin is still looking for two home games in 2010, but the Badgers completed their 2011 slate today with the addition of South Dakota. 

The season opens with home games against UNLV (Sept. 3) and Oregon State (Sept. 10), followed by a neutral-site meeting with Northern Illinois on Sept. 17 at Soldier Field in Chicago. Wisconsin then wraps up non-league play Sept. 24 at home against South Dakota, an FCS team that finished fourth in the Great West Conference last season.

"What I like about the 2011 schedule is that our fans will have the opportunity to see a variety of quality football programs from around the country," Badgers coach Bret Bielema said in a statement. "We're also very excited about the chance to play in a historic venue like Soldier Field. The Big Ten schedule is always tough, and we're pleased to have our bye week in the middle of October."

The addition of the Coyotes, who recently moved up from Division II, won't change the growing frustration with Wisconsin's scheduling approach. Wisconsin has faced FCS teams in each of the last three seasons, nearly losing to Cal Poly in 2008, and figures to do so for the foreseeable future.

Wofford is on the slate this fall. 

As The Capital Times' Jim Polzin writes in his blog:

"Bielema made it clear last fall that Football Championship Subdivision [formerly I-AA] opponents will continue to appear on the Badgers' schedule, mainly because UW can save a ton of money by booking a 'buy game' against an FCS program as opposed to a mid-major Football Bowl Subdivision program."

Wisconsin needs to fill two games for its 2010 slate -- a road game at UNLV and a home game against Arizona State are already set -- and as Polzin points out, you can bet an FCS team will fill one of the dates. 

Unfortunately, these games are the reality in the Big Ten, not just at Wisconsin. As much as all of us would rather see Big Ten teams play more BCS foes or top non-BCS squads, we had better familiarize ourselves with the Great West, Missouri Valley and the Ohio Valley.  

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