I would like to hire PJ Fleck to coach me please. pic.twitter.com/F0rD7bGC92— Landon Howell (@landonhowell) December 1, 2019
“We’ve had firsts, we’ve had nevers, we’ve restored people’s beliefs of what we can do. Let’s not go back.”
This was the answer to the final question asked of PJ Fleck after the Golden Gophers came up short against Wisconsin on Saturday. A game that brought an electric atmosphere to campus and ignited Gopher fans all around the state.
This is where I am in raging agreement with Coach Fleck. This team accomplished quite a bit this season. This was the first 10-win season regular season in generations and while they came so very close to getting back to the Rose Bowl in nearly 60 years, they did in fact fall short. And after falling short there is no reason to go back. This team showed it belonged at this stage in 2019.
“Because we can. We didn’t tonight, but we can.”
We can what? We can win these types of games. Losing this game is not indicative of what is going to happen in future seasons, nor is it some cosmic conspiracy that this “always” happens to Gopher fans. This was a football game where we were beat. I believe this staff and this culture has what it takes to be prepared to win those games going forward.
But it really takes both of those quotes together to understand where I’m going here. This team earned the right to be playing for the Rose Bowl and a Big Ten Championship game. This team was 10-1 heading into the final weekend of the season with their rival the only thing standing between them and a season that would never be forgotten.
And they came up short. Does this mean they cannot win these games? No, then can. And I firmly believe that they can. Disappointment is certainly an acceptable emotion after Saturday’s loss. As Blake pointed out on Sunday, this was an opportunity wasted. But we were beat and we were beat by a good team.
I have always preached here that progress is not linear. Losing that game is a slight step back from the path we may have felt we were entitled to be on. And next year might not be as good as this year. But make no mistake about it, the program is in a very good place right now.
As we are still stinging from the loss to Wisconsin and now have to endure a year without The Axe, Floyd or The Jug; it is good to maintain a little perspective.
Not just that the program is in a really good place right now. But also...this was a really great season. A 10-2 regular season doesn’t come around very often. A January 1 bowl game is also difficult to achieve.
Did we lose those two games to rivals? Yes. And swapping out the Penn State win for a win at Iowa would have secured Floyd, but the record ultimately is the same and the season result remains the same as well.
I’m excited about the season we just had and I’m excited about the seasons to come. 2019 was special and I’m anticipating that truly ELITE season coming soon.
I’m not going back, I’m looking forward.