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Minnesota Football vs Penn State: Postgame Exit Survey

What a time to be a Gopher

Minnesota Golden Gophers remain undefeated after winning against Penn State Photo by Mark Vancleave /Star Tribune via Getty Images

I’m going to skip the intro here, because everything below is more worth your time.

What is your Tweet-length (280 characters or less) summary of the Gophers’ 31-26 victory over Penn State?

IowaGopher: The most fulfilling moment of my years as a Gopher football fan, thus far.

gopherguy05: Still trying to figure out how best to put it into words, but an epic experience.

Ustreet: Never in Doubt


Holy shit that happened!

It really fucking happened!

Ski-U-Mah Gophers!

GopherNation: That was special.

WhiteSpeedReceiver: That’ll do.

mowe0018: 9-0. Undefeated. Covered spread. Just win, baby. Row the Boat. Ski-U-Mah.

wildcat00: Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

zipsofakron: I drank whiskey on the field after storming it. I guess you could say it was a victory.

To borrow a Fleck-ism, who is your pick for “Nekton of the Week” from the game?

IowaGopher: Jordan Howden. P.J. Fleck says that failing is growth, and I’m sure Howden would be the first person to tell you he did a lot of failing last season as a true freshman. He was thrown into the fire when Antoine Winfield Jr. was lost for the year. One year later, he is making the game-saving interception against a Top 5-ranked opponent.

gopherguy05: Game-after-bye-week Tanner Morgan. In his two games after a bye this season, he is 39-of-42 for 735 passing yards and seven touchdowns. Kind of wishing there was a bye week before Indy. At least we should see stud Tanner in the bowl game.

Ustreet: Coney Durr, who’s quietly putting together an All-Big Ten season.

GoAUpher: Rashod Bateman. He got everyone hyped early and kept it going all game. Magical day.

GopherNation: I’m going with the secondary. Those guys made several huge plays throughout the game. Chris Williamson’s tip in the end zone, Winfield’s two picks, Howden’s game clincher, and Coney Durr’s break-up on the deep pass down the Penn State sideline. Those guys gave up some plays and 340 yards passing, but Penn State was also throwing a lot and that is a really talented receiving corps. Hats off to those guys for making some huge defensive plays.

WhiteSpeedReceiver: The offensive line. Tanner Morgan doesn’t go 18-for-20 against that defensive front without a lot of help, and the fat kids delivered.

mowe0018: I watched this game with a friend of mine who is an Oklahoma fan and hasn’t watched a lick of Gopher football this year. By the end of the game, he was convinced we had two All-American secondary players in Winfield and Durr. Who am I to disagree?

wildcat00: Antoine Winfield. I had a suspicion he’d be key to a win over Penn State, and he was.

zipsofakron: Brock Walker. Dude hits his first ever field goal attempt in front of a packed house in the most important game ever. Plus five more extra points. Nails.

To those who were at the game, what was the atmosphere like? I don’t think we can say enough good things about that crowd.

gopherguy05: It was insane. It hasn’t been that electric in TCF Bank Stadium in a very long time, if ever. The first year there were some fun moments, but they didn’t have the same big game feel that this did. Everyone was in their seats before kickoff and there were many who stood for most of the game. Not usual things for sure.

GoAUpher: It’s never been like that. Other games have had bursts, but that was a sustained level of energy I’ve never seen nor felt. Everyone who came will remember that game forever. I heart all of you who were there for making a memory I will cherish. Truly one of the best sports experiences I’ve ever had.

GopherNation: I was in the press box, but that atmosphere was incredible. The seats were filled early, the crowd was standing and absolutely helped that team to a win. It was special and everyone in that stadium will remember that game.

WhiteSpeedReceiver: I’ve never been at a sporting event that felt like that. The closest was Williams Arena in 1997, but even that wasn’t quite to the level of what Saturday was.

mowe0018: It looked magical. I felt great pride while watching on TV.

wildcat00: Sadly, I was not at the actual game. But even on TV, it looked like nothing I’ve seen of Gopher football before. At one point in the game, the crowd noise (on TV!) was so loud I could barely hear the broadcast crew.

zipsofakron: Everyone was turned up from the jump. There were extra gates opened to increase flow of fans into the stadium. Everyone stood the ENTIRE time. I never stopped screaming. I’ve never jumped for joy or hugged so many random strangers. I made so many new 12-hour friends. My face hurts from smiling. My voice is still recovering.

To everyone who at least watched the game, what were your emotions in the aftermath, if you can describe them? Feel free to get sentimental.

IowaGopher: I was emotional. I don’t know how anyone following this program for a number of years could not be emotional. I wrote yesterday about the heartbreak that we’ve endured as Gopher fans. This is the type of game — and the kind of season — that makes it all worth it. There’s nothing quite like seeing your faith rewarded. And after a week of hearing people talk about how Minnesota was a fraud, it felt like validation.

gopherguy05: There was much jumping and celebrating. I wasn’t as emotional as I was after we won the Axe last season, but it was a close second.

Ustreet: Listen to Great Takes Less Filling.

GoAUpher: At first I didn’t actually jump or holler. I threw my arms up and then stood there like a stone. I was in shock.

Then I went and hugged gg05 and like 72 other people. And rushed the field. And got a pic with Rodney Smith. And one with Trevor Mbakwe. And saw a former tuba player wearing a Gophers hockey jersey with the name Ranger Rick on the back that I am envious of.

I also got feedback from the people I called after the game that I managed to say “Holy fucking shit” with 72 different versions of syllable emphasis and voice inflection.

GopherNation: I had tears in my eyes and had to walk away for a minute as I was beginning to understand the magnitude of that win. The magnitude for Gopher fans who have been waiting for a moment like this. The potential magnitude for how this helps the program moving forward and what this win means for just this season. The Gophers getting to the Rose Bowl is very much in our grasp and that is something we have desired for decades.

WhiteSpeedReceiver: Honestly, I was stunned. I just stood there for a few moments while everything was going on and people started storming the field. Then I gave a few friends a hug and got grabbed by a few more and stormed the field. It didn’t really sink in until Sunday morning when I saw the Tweet with Mike Grimm’s radio call of the pick that it sank in, and my God does it still feel so good.

mowe0018: Vindication and greed. Honestly, I’d been telling anyone who would listen all week that we were going to win that game. When Morgan touched his knee to the ground one final time, I was relieved and felt vindicated for keeping the faith. Then, I thought of poor Floyd and being imprisoned in the state of Iowa for four years. And I suddenly wanted more for this team. I know I should have spent some time dwelling on all that this had meant for the program but I believe it is destined for even bigger things this season and it starts with getting our bacon back.

wildcat00: It’s a little bit difficult to articulate exactly how I felt in that moment. I’m kind of sappy and I may have cried a little bit afterwards. I would use words like “euphoria” or “vindication” if I felt there were actually any words equal to the moment. No single minute of my Gopher football fan life has ever felt quite like this. I think this is a sort of crystallization of every hope and aspiration most of us have ever had for this program. No matter what else happens this season, the future feels bright. Every possibility is on the table.

zipsofakron: I looked up at the sky at the beginning of the third quarter and pondered everything for a couple minutes. Like a “don’t forget this moment” type thing. I had a freak-out moment after the final interception when one of my friends reminded me that we needed to rush the field. The realization that “it” had happened shook me. We’d pulled off the most magnificent victory in the history of the program that I’ve given so much energy to. It was electric.

The aftermath? My whole body was sore from jumping and running around the west concourse. I shoulder bumped Damian Johnson. I hugged strangers. I stormed the field and yelled into the sky. The release was unbelievable and unmatched. And we were all together for it.

Aside from Jordan Howden's game-saving interception, what play will stand out when you think back to this game?

IowaGopher: I keep coming back to that 66-yard touchdown pass to Rashod Bateman on the Gophers’ first offensive possession of the game. It ignited the crowd and felt like Minnesota was serving notice to Penn State that this was going to be a fight.

gopherguy05: The first Antoine Winfield interception, right into the Bateman touchdown. It was a sign they were not intimidated and ready to play and good things were going to happen.

Ustreet: Positive play is the first Winfield interception. Negative play is Shannon Brooks’ fumble.

GoAUpher: Goodness. I could name several. I think all three passing touchdowns stand out not just because of their individual merits, but because each one allowed the crowed to quickly build to a crescendo of excitement as the touchdown was scored. It was truly something I’d never experienced in TCF. You could feel the wave of energy build out of nowhere.

GopherNation: The Bateman touchdown on our fifth offensive play is the one that stands out for me. That, so quickly after the Winfield pick, is the one that set the tone. That let everyone know that this wasn’t a weak Gopher team who limped to 8-0 accidentally as they were about to face a “real” team that was going to run over them. No, this team wasn’t here to participate, they were here to win.

WhiteSpeedReceiver: The first Winfield pick and the Bateman touchdown were huge for setting the tone, but the second Winfield pick and ensuing touchdown made me believe it was our day. I’m not going to forget that or Chris Autman-Bell’s touchdown (complete with GET OFF ME! stiff arm action on some poor Penn State defensive back) because they were just so amazing to see happen.

mowe0018: The three touchdowns and interceptions. They were all different kinds of statements and will go down in the historical montages for years to come.

wildcat00: That first interception for Winfield set the tone for the whole game, but also that first score from Rashod Bateman. That’s what made me a true believer on the day.

zipsofakron: The first interception and the score from Bateman made it real. The team belonged on the national stage from the outset, that much was for sure.

There have been mixed reviews of the Gopher defense. How would you grade their performance against Penn State?

IowaGopher: I think we can all agree that the red zone defense was the best it has been all season. When their backs were against the wall, Joe Rossi’s defense did not fold. The run defense was subpar the Nittany Lions’ first three drives of the game, allowing 112 rushing yards on 5 carries. But after that? 66 yards on 24 carries. That is 2.75 yards per carry. Penn State certainly found creases in the secondary in the second half, but Sean Clifford was making some unbelievable throws. And I think we can all acknowledge that his primary targets, KJ Hamler and Pat Freiermuth, are both elite playmakers. Give credit where credit is due. The other team is talented too. Clifford may have thrown for 340 yards — his 43 pass attempts were a single-game season-high — but the great equalizer was the three interceptions.

Most importantly, Minnesota held Penn State 12 points below their scoring average (38.5 points per game). I think a B+ was well earned by the Gopher defense.

gopherguy05: They stepped up when they needed to. Yeah, there were lapses again, and missing Kamal Martin probably didn’t help, but they stepped up and made big plays when big plays needed to be made. Is there room for improvement? Hell yes. But it could have been much much worse. A solid B works for me.

Ustreet: A for the first three quarters. C- for the first 13:49 minutes of the fourth quarter. A+ for the last 1:11 of the fourth.

GoAUpher: I dunno, I kinda feel like when you play the No. 4-ranked team in the country and force three turnovers in a win, you can get a pass from me. A+.

GopherNation: I will give them an A. They were not perfect but they were also facing a really good offense. This defense isn’t elite, but they execute and play well together. If your expectation was that they would hold this Penn State offense to under 300 yards, you had unrealistic expectations. They played great and they were really impressive in the red zone. It should not be forgotten that Penn State was inside the 5 on three occasions, all three trips combined for three points. That is your ballgame there.

WhiteSpeedReceiver: B+. We allowed our offense to score more points than a very impressive offense and (reasonably) held Hamler and Freiermuth in check. That’s passing, and I’m a tough grader (No shutout? No A).

mowe0018: It certainly wasn’t perfect but when you play really good teams, things never will be. They got it done when they had to and actually forced three turnovers and two three-and-outs. That’s solid against a talented offense. B+.

wildcat00: It’s hard to grade a defense that played well in the first half and in the final minutes too poorly. I think there were some issues, and overall, I don’t think this defense is quite as good as the offense. But this was a solid team performance (so a B+ maybe). Certainly it was a defense worthy of a Top 10 team, at least against Penn State. (Did I mention Minnesota is ranked No. 7? Did you ever think a thing like this would happen? If you answered yes, you’re a big fat liar!)

zipsofakron: You could argue that they gave up a few too many big plays, but Penn State is also full of playmakers, so what do you expect. They won the turnover battle and we knew full well going into the game that the winner of that battle would be in prime position to win the game.

Who had the more impressive game on offense: Tanner Morgan, Rashod Bateman, or the Minnesota offensive line?

IowaGopher: Considering Black Shoe Diaries gave their defensive line an F grade for their performance against the Gophers, I have to salute the Minnesota Movers. They were up against one of the deepest and most formidable defensive lines in the country, including a trio of pass rushers with a combined 15 sacks to their names. The Nittany Lions were never able to make Tanner Morgan uncomfortable in the pocket, applying pressure at times but only coming up with one sack and that was courtesy of a blitzing linebacker.

gopherguy05: All three were great, but I’ll give the nod to Big Game Tanner. Now, a big reason why Big Game Tanner showed up was the offensive line, as IowaGopher describes above, but when he has time to work on his mechanics — like over a bye week — he’s one of, if not the best quarterback in the country. Seriously. Read the stats above.

Ustreet: As the question is exclusively about the pass offense, the offensive line.


GopherNation: Don’t make me pick. But I’ll go with the quarterback. Not necessarily because of his stats (two incomplete balls, both of which were also good passes). But this kid is a leader and has proven several times that when it matters most, he is at his best. As he was on Saturday.

WhiteSpeedReceiver: Yes. Bateman doesn’t have his game without my favorite tax accountant, and Morgan doesn’t have his game without the fat kids. The fat kids did work, and the others shined.

mowe0018: I’m sure even they would say they were all Rowing the Boat together. Who are we to choose?

wildcat00: The offensive line was all kinds of awesome, and given how concerned we were with the line during the non-conference stretch, I’m all for eating a bit of crow here. Tanner Morgan had all day and Penn State’s defensive line never got a real crack at him. That’s ELITE.

zipsofakron: They were all equally magnificent and how dare you try to make me pick my favorite of the three children? This is a time for unity.

The future is unknowable, but as Gopher fans, we're well versed in the horrors of the past. What does this win mean for a program that has struggled for the better part of 50 years?

IowaGopher: I don’t think that any of us have fully grasped the magnitude of even this season yet. It can be difficult to appreciate the historical perspective when you’re living in the moment, and when even now there is still ample opportunity for this season to be even better than it already is. But the win over Penn State feels like a turning point. If the last 50 years of mediocrity have been building to anything, it is now. It’s hard not to focus on the future, because the possibilities are exciting, but the impact of that win over Penn State will have reverberations on a variety of different fronts. Gopher fans showed up and were rewarded for it. Recruits were in attendance and experienced an unforgettable game in an electric atmosphere. The media, both local and national, are talking about the program (most importantly, in a positive light).

gopherguy05: It’s a huge win, and it should be considered a huge win no matter what the rest of the season entails. But it either has the ability to be a huge memorable win like Penn State in ‘99, or the precursor to something even more epic that most likely no one of us ever imagined. So its lore is still being written. Hopefully it’s epic nature will be something that is remembered forever.

Ustreet: It means they’re 9-0 and can recruit off being a Top 7 team in the country. Wins don’t matter retrospectively until the season is over.

GoAUpher: It means pure bliss. I’m not sure I can fully encapsulate a larger meaning yet. But my dreams are big right now. And that hasn’t happened to me in November in, well, ever.

GopherNation: Actually I’m not sure it means much beyond that fact that it puts us in the driver’s seat for the Rose Bowl. But more wins have to happen before that. As far as what this does for setting us up for future success? Not much really. Iowa had a huge win over a great PSU team in recent years and that hasn’t exactly put their program over the top. We’ve had top 10 wins in the past and look at us over the last decade. You need to continue to build and build consistency. But this win was special for Gopher fans. Enjoy every minute of it and this season.

WhiteSpeedReceiver: It means we get the chance to go kill another streak that isn’t really important because it covers 5 coaching regimes going back to roughly the time all these players were born. Also: it means we puff our damn chests out and believe that we’re going to beat the feathers off Iowa and go 10-0 and be one damn game away from winning the division for the first time ever and playing for our first conference title since 1967. Gopher Football is trending in the right direction and we should just enjoy every second of it.

mowe0018: As gopherguy05 said, its lore is still being written. Will it be an exciting and important chapter in an undefeated regular season the likes of which have never been seen in Dinkytown before? Will it be the best win in a rare 10-2 season? Will it be the beginning of the return of Minnesota as a dominant force in college football? Who is to say? Smarter people than me can try to identify it. I will not.

wildcat00: We are having that season, the one that teams like Minnesota are rarely allowed to have. I’m not going to prognosticate too much, for fear of ruining what has already been a fantastic, much-better-than-expected, dream season. If we make it to 10 or 11 wins, great. If we don’t, we’ll still always have this 9-0 run, and that fantastic Saturday afternoon when all was right with the world. Everything else is gravy.

zipsofakron: For the first time since I’ve been alive, I can realistically talk to any other fan in the country and unironically say that the Minnesota Golden Gophers have a place in the national conversation.