Just over a week ago the Gophers hosted #4 Penn State and won an incredible game. The win gave them a resume building win and national respect. It also created a massive Gopher buzz around the Twin Cities for this program, raising expectations for this 2019 team and having everyone scrambling to figure out how to get to Pasadena over New Years.
Then the Gophers had to travel to Iowa City. A place where many Gopher fans have had frequent post-game conversations about “IF this had gone one way” or “IF that hadn’t happened...” You know what I’m talking about.
IF the Gophers hadn’t spotted Iowa 3 touchdowns to start the game. IF Tyler Johnson catches that 4th down pass inside the 10. IF we don’t have that penalty on the 4th quarter punt. IF a hold is called on Nate Stanley’s scramble on third and short. You get the idea. But those things didn’t happen. Iowa played a great first quarter. Johnson did drop that pass (which isn’t exactly a new phenomenon for him). Iowa came out firing on all cylinders and made fewer mistakes en route to a field storming win.
Iowa City is a difficult place to play. Really any Big Ten road game against a good team is difficult. Losing road conference games is nothing new. Ask Wisconsin about their trip to Illinois. Ask Ohio State about their trip to West Lafayette last year. Two very good examples that came to mind in seconds, no research required.
So losing a conference road game to a quality team is what happened to Minnesota on Saturday. It happens, it happened on Saturday. Unfortunately it was to a rival. A team just south of the border and most of us have relatives and/or coworkers who are Iowa fans and we get to hear about this one for a while. Losing to a rival when you are having a phenomenal season is especially difficult.
But here is the deal...this season is not over. Maybe later I’ll talk about expectations and how I’m hearing all too frequently about how if we lose to Iowa and Wisconsin to finish 10-2 what a disappointment that would be. I’ll address that notion another day. But right now, I’m till along for this ride.
This ride doesn’t end just because of a loss. Was it a disappointing and particularly a gut punch because it was Iowa? Yes. Nobody is happy with this loss. But the ride is far from over.
This ride is still going strong. This team still has every single goal in front of them. Winning the Big Ten West and going to Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game is still right there. Beating Wisconsin and keeping the Axe is still very realistic.
And that trip to Pasadena? Don’t cancel the PTO you put in for just yet. Because the Rose Bowl is still within our grasp. And not just because it is mathematically possible, but this team can play with anybody. Nothing I saw in Iowa suggests that we can’t win our next two games, including the Badgers. IF we decide to give up 3 touchdowns in the first quarter winning 2 more games will be challenging. But this is a team completely capable of going 2-0 to finish the regular season.
Keep rowing the boat, Gopher fans.