Just when you thought that Gopher Football was dead they went out and snagged themselves a nice road win over a team that is more talented and was once considered one of the few teams capable of winning the Legend's Division.
Saturday was a nice win and what I think is most significant about it is that this team should now be reminded that they can in fact compete in the Big Ten. They were so soundly beat by Iowa that those who only casually follow the program blow-hearted that maybe the Gophers don't belong in the Big Ten (or that St. Thomas could beat the Gophs). And those are more passionate about the program were demoralized at the apparent lack of progress in year 3. That debacle was followed by a trip to Ann Arbor, where nobody was expecting a win and many of us were not expecting a competitive game. This one saw a gutty effort by the Gophers that resulted in a 13-42 blowout. This was then followed by a bye week where Coach Kill announced that he was taking an indefinite leave to hopefully get his epilepsy to a more manageable state.
So the state of the program heading into Northwestern? Many had left the program for dead and the bigger questions were surrounding the status of coach Kill going forward, not the ability of the team to any more Big Ten games in 2013.
But then Northwestern happened. The Wildcats were coming off back-to-back losses on the national stage. They were going to be playing without their two most potent offensive weapons and lost a starting DT on a defense that already was struggling against the run. With those as caveats, the Gophers went on the road and beat a team they still shouldn't have.
Northwestern lost 20-17 today to Minnesota. Minnesota played a great game. There was no fluke, no bad calls, no lucky break that the Golden Gophers got. (In fact, Northwestern were the beneficiary of a dubious 4th down defensive pass interference against Minnesota in the 4th quarter.) Minnesota played better, and deserved to win. Hat tip to the Gophers. Seriously, if anyone says Northwestern "deserved" to win, they're morons. Minny played well, and got a win they deserved.
So how big of a win was this for the Gophers? I'll state again that I think this win did more for the confidence building of a team that had to have been down than it will be remembered as any sort of a program "signature win." I posted before the season started that there was hope for a "signature win" this season. I stated then and I'll reiterate that I don't think Northwestern counts as such a win.
Northwestern is #22 to begin the season, they were very close to 10 or 11 regular season wins last year and they are hopeful for that this year. But I'm leaving them off of the "signature win" list for a couple reasons. One, they are facing Ohio State and Wisconsin in the two weeks leading up to the Gopher game. And regardless of what they do in those games (I'm assuming 0-2 or 1-1), a loss to Minnesota is going to send the message that Northwestern isn't quite as good as we thought they were. It would have nothing to do with the Gophers heading in the right direction. You don't sit in a recruit's living room and hold up a win over Northwestern as the biggest win in your 3-year tenure. It would be a big win, huge really. But I'm hoping for more.
Northwestern is a good team but not a great team. Northwestern is a team more ready to compete near the top of the Big Ten than we are, but they have flaws and holes exposed by their lack of depth. When we play well and our play-makers make some plays, we can beat good teams. Ra'Shede Hageman reminded everyone that he really does deserve to be talked about as a first round draft pick. Philip Nelson reminded people why he was given the starting job as a true freshman. James Manuel was making several big plays throughout the game. David Cobb continued to build on what is a pretty nice junior season. And both the offensive and defensive lines won the battle in the trenches against a Big Ten team.
I think this was a good win and it restates some confidence in the program. Things are going in the right direction. Winning on the road against what could still be an 8-win team is no small feat and it should be celebrated. Beating a team you were double-digit underdogs to, is a nice accomplishment. What I am appreciating most is that people are enjoying the win, the feeling of getting a W was long forgotten over the last 4 weeks. But people are not getting carried away. We didn't just clinch a spot in the Big Ten title game and we didn't just upset a highly ranked opponent. We played well, we played together, we executed a game-plan and we earned a Big Ten win. At least now another win or two doesn't seem so monumental. When we play well and we execute, good things can happen.
The demise of the Gopher Football Program and the Jerry Kill Era was largely exaggerated and premature.
More from The Daily Gopher:
- Minnesota Football: Golden Nugz 10.21.13
- Minnesota Football: Gophers Upset Northwestern 20-17
- Minnesota Football: Gophers Beat Northwestern - Highlights!
- Minnesota Football: Gophers Beating Northwestern Still Feels Good - Here's Some Videos and Pictures
- Minnesota Football: Gophers Beat Northwestern - IT'S A CELEBRATION!