The Gophers football team rallied to make it a game at Ohio State, scoring twice in the fourth quarter in a 28-14 loss. It also put together a tremendous defensive effort for the first 20 minutes as the score remained 0-0 late into the half.

If the Gophers can maintain those kind of performances there is hope they can win their final three games and reach a bowl game for the fourth consecutive season.

The Gophers had pulled within seven points and had Ohio State facing third-and-9 from the Gophers 38-yard line with 2 minutes to go, but they couldn’t get a key stop as Cardale Jones scored a touchdown for the final margin.

Still, all of the negative media stories about quarterback Mitch Leidner have been proven wrong with the performance he put on in the Michigan game last week and then with his play during the comeback against Ohio State, after taking a number of very big hits, to finish the game with 281 yards passing and two scores.

Yes, if the Gophers can simply duplicate their performance to start the first half and end the second half they should have a real chance to compete on the road against Iowa and at home against Wisconsin and Illinois.

Ohio State finally scored on an interception return off a big hit on Leidner that was originally called a penalty. But the bigger blow might have been when the Buckeyes marched 77 yards for a score towards the end of the first half, converting on third-and-18 on the way.

The Gophers offense couldn’t get in any rhythm early and actually lost 8 yards over the entire third quarter as Ohio State took a 21-0 lead. The biggest issue for this squad is trying to find a way to be consistent on offense. In the fourth quarter they put together two great drives of more than 70 yards and looked like a completely different team.

The defense looked as good as ever. Last season Urban Meyer told Jerry Kill that his Gophers squad was the best defense they faced during their national championship season, and he may very well say the same after this year’s game.

The defensive performance was just another indication that Tracy Claeys is capable of coaching this team. The Gophers administration needs to do something soon to secure this staff or they’re going to have to hire another coach.

UNLV ties helped land Diggs

Wide receivers coach George Stewart is one of the best in the game. His tenure with the Vikings, which is in its ninth season and has spanned three head coaches, just shows how much he is respected.

Stewart’s connection with former UNLV coach Jim Strong is the reason rookie Stefon Diggs is here even though the former Maryland receiver was never contacted by the Vikings before they selected him in the fifth round.

Stewart has also coached for the Steelers, Buccaneers, 49ers and Falcons in the NFL, coaching such great wide receivers as Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens and Roddy White. In the 1980s, he worked with Lou Holtz as a college coach with Arkansas, the Gophers and Notre Dame, serving as Gophers offensive line coach in 1984-85.

Stewart had a close relationship with Strong, as they both worked under Holtz at all three of those schools. Strong knew the current Maryland wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell, who played at UNLV when Strong was his coach. That connection got Stewart introduced to McCardell, who coached Diggs at Maryland last season.

“I saw him on tape,” Stewart said. “… I went out as a guest of Jim Strong to talk to [Diggs’] coach back at Maryland, Keennan McCardell. So when I met Stefon I brought that up to him as well. But I’ll tell you what, he’s a remarkable young man.”

Stewart said this year’s squad of Vikings receivers is the best overall group he has had in his nine years here.

Morneau available

You got the impression listening to Justin Morneau at Torii Hunter’s retirement news conference Thursday that to rejoin the Twins, the 2006 American League MVP would likely take a much less-attractive contract, one that might include clauses protecting the Twins if he had further concussion problems.

Colorado bought out Morneau’s $9 million option for $750,000 even though Morneau, who won the National League batting title in 2014, hit .338 with a combined on-base/slugging percentage of .894 in the final 22 games of the season. Morneau missed 104 games because of concussion symptoms this year.

You can also be sure that Hunter will be in Twins spring training to help tutor the young outfielders.

Meanwhile, what a great moment it had to be for Drew Butera last week. After being with four teams in six seasons, the ex-Twins catcher was lucky enough to be a member of the World Series-winning Kansas City Royals.Butera also is a part of a father-son championship tandem, as his father, Sal Butera, was the Twins backup catcher for their first championship team in 1987.

Sid's Jottings

The college football season is still two months away from finishing and already there are 10 FBS coaching vacancies. Rest assured, if the University of Minnesota administration continues to stall hiring Tracy Claeys, the former defensive coordinator will have offers coming in for him and his coaching staff before this season ends.

Former Gophers standout Blake Wheeler entered Saturday leading the Winnipeg Jets in scoring with six goals and 11 assists through 14 games and had registered at least one point in all but two games so far. Wheeler’s 17 points were good for fourth-best in the NHL.

After going three games without rushing for 100 yards, Adrian Peterson had 103 against the Bears last week, his third 100-yard performance in seven games this season. In his last full season with the Vikings in 2014, he had two 100-yard games through his first seven.

• It was after a Gophers spring football scrimmage in 2004 at the Metrodome that then-Wayzata linebacker James Laurinaitis walked up to Gophers coach Glen Mason while I was speaking to Mason and committed to Minnesota. But that fall Laurinaitis changed his mind and ended up enrolling at Ohio State where he was one of the best in Buckeyes history. Now he ranks with the NFL’s best linebackers with the Rams, and he has 52 tackles for a defense that has five defensive linemen who were drafted in the first round.

Cordarrelle Patterson had 43 returns for 1,393 yards and two touchdowns as a Vikings rookie in 2013, when he went to the Pro Bowl. Last year he had 34 returns for 871 yards with no scores. But this year he is on pace for even less yardage than last year with 371 return yards in seven games, which would put him on pace for 848 yards.