MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jeff Horton just wants the Gophers to enjoy themselves.
Filling in for head coach Tim Brewster after Minnesota fired him on Sunday, Horton took control of the team this week and begun working out details for the rest of the season.
“We’re going to have fun over these last five games,” Horton said Tuesday. “We’re not going to sit around here and be doom and gloom. … I’m not going to allow that. I’m not going to wallow in pity. I’m not going to feel sorry for myself, and I’m not going to let anybody else. If anybody wants to be like that, we’re not going to have them around.”
The pressure is on athletic director Joel Maturi to find a replacement who can revive this struggling program, but over the next five games the burden on Horton, the staff and the players has at least been lifted.
“Eighteen years in Nevada: I like to gamble, OK?” Horton said, smiling as he recalled his time as a head coach and an assistant at both UNLV and Nevada.
Horton’s first game running the Gophers (1-6, 0-3 Big Ten) will be this Saturday against Penn State at TCF Bank Stadium, where “Fire Brewster!” chants have spoiled the atmosphere for the players in recent weeks.
“They can go out, play harder, play better,” Horton said. “As coaches, we can coach harder, better. I told both the staff and the players, ‘Whatever we’ve done, whatever we’ve given up to this point, it hasn’t been enough because of what the results are. We have to find a way, all of us, to give more.”‘
Horton said he wanted to stay in the press box and direct the offense, figuring “nobody could yell at me up there,” but said he will move to the sideline and send co-offensive coordinator Thomas Hammock upstairs to originate the play calls.
Horton also said he’ll move co-defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove from the press box to the field with him for another veteran voice in game-strategy discussions, with co-defensive coordinator Ronnie Lee moving upstairs.
But Horton said he’s not looking at this stretch as an audition.
“When the bottom line comes, it’s about the kids,” he said. “It’s about having them having success and having something positive happen to them. Obviously up to this point that has not happened. Now is the time hopefully we can just rekindle all this energy and get it moving in the right direction, really rally around each other.”
Quarterback Adam Weber has been trying to help convey the same message, as one of the team’s captains.
“Whatever cards I’m dealt or we’re dealt, try to make the most of it,” Weber said. “Whether it be a coaching change or different offense, whatever, you just try to take it on with 100 percent of your effort, and with a positive attitude.”
And for those wondering, Horton said Weber is still the quarterback. Multi-talented sophomore MarQueis Gray still the backup while he bides his time as a wide receiver and gets ready to take over in 2011.
“I think I’ve got over 200 e-mails on that,” Horton said. “Amazing how quick they find out your e-mail address. Didn’t have any up until Sunday. Now everybody hit me.”
Horton added: “Our best chance for success right now is with Adam at quarterback and MarQueis at wide receiver. … To have one of those guys standing on the sideline with us, in my opinion, is hindering what we can do offensively.”
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