Gophers games, particularly Gopher wins, are often very fun. An experience that sticks with you for various reasons. A game that you won’t soon forget. Saturday in Boulder was one of those times.
Sometimes a Gopher game becomes memorable because is because of a massive upset that makes national headlines, usually more because of the team that lost than it is because people care about the Gophers. Think upsetting Ohio State in 2000 or Penn State.
It may be that the game was just wacky. The 1993 Purdue game in the Metrodome that ended up 59-56 comes to mind.
On rare occasion it is just a huge win with implications that extend beyond just the Big Ten. Those seasons when the Gophers are facing a highly ranked and talented team while ALSO being a talented and highly ranked team. Penn State 2019 is one game I’m sure you, the reader, will not soon forget.
Sometimes a game becomes memorable because it is a huge rivalry win. Iowa in 2010 and Wisconsin 2018 are prefect examples.
This past Saturday in Boulder was so much fun as well, but it was the total experience. For those of us who were fortunate enough to make the trip, the entire day was just incredible. The sky was bright blue, the sun was shining, it was warm and the morning was spent driving into Boulder with the foothills of the Rockies appearing to most Minnesotan’s as legit mountains, taking it all in. The morning was relaxing, the stadium was cool and watching Ralphie run as the Buffs came out of the tunnel was an experience that I didn’t expect to be nearly as cool as it was.
Oh, and then there was a game. Let’s not forget that there was a game. And the memorable day continued.
A week ago Colorado hosted an SEC team that was ranked 5th in the country. Texas A&M struggled to move the ball and score against the Buffs defense. In the end, the Aggies came away with a 10-7 win and all of a sudden there was more concern about how well the Gophers would fare in Boulder.
But the narrative of this game was set from the opening snap. With Colorado on offense to start the game quarterback, Brendon Lewis mishandled the snap for a loss of 10 yards. They started the game with negative rushing yards and never got to positive.
By the end of the game the Gophers had 441 yards while allowing Colorado to move the ball just 63 total yards.
But the point here is not to recap the game, some hack did that already. What does this mean?
Not much. I think the Gophers are better than Colorado but sometimes you have a day when you play really well and the other team has a bad day. When that happens, things go sideways for the other team. If we could wipe memories, start the game over today, I think the Gophers still win but it would not likely be a 33-0 shutout.
I do love how this schedule is playing out for Minnesota. If my theory holds true that this coaching staff is adept at getting their teams better throughout the season, then this game was a good step in the right direction. How well we fare against non-conference teams is irrelevant (mostly). The goal is to win the West. Nothing about winning the West this year looks easy, but this schedule is playing in our favor.
Ohio State exposed a lot. For Miami-Ohio they seemed to have corrected many things before getting slapped in the face in the 3rd quarter. Colorado was supposed to be more challenging but the team put everything together (well, almost everything). Up next is Bowling Green, a team expected to be at or near the bottom of the MAC East. One more opportunity to get things right before getting back into the Big Ten.
The defense has one more week to continue to get better. The offense has another week to refine execution. But then the subsequent trip to Purdue is not going to be easy and rattling off some Big Ten wins before that final three-game stretch of @Iowa, @Indiana and Wisconsin is going to be really important.
Is this team starting to put things together to be a team at or near the top of the Big Ten West? Yesterday doesn’t prove anything, but it was a step in the right direction.