The term "moral" victory has been used by many in the past 24 hours. In Minnesota’s season opener at USC, the Gophers were predicted to lose by anywhere from 21-24 points, and they only lost by 2 points. As one of the lucky ones able to attend the game at the LA Coliseum, I was amongst many Gopher fans that left the game with our heads held high because of this game.
What does that mean to fans, the players, and Jerry Kill? When looking at the fan reaction to this game, the majority of the comments on www.GopherHole.com from posters are positive:
"I was happy with... The adjustments made at halftime. We got better as the game went on."
"I think the Gophers in a lot of way looked like a functional football team today. Their first half performance left something to be desired but I was impressed with their adjustments in the second half."
"Losing sucks, but much to be encouraged about! The first half was in my eyes mostly nerves. I really believe that if we play a pre-season game or a game vs a cupcake before playing USC, we win that game."
"We almost had an epic start to the Kill era."
"What do we have? A future. At this point we should be thrilled about that. Kill is still unproven, and the team is not going to be great this year. That said we have a SOLID start to a new regime. We should all feel better about the Gophers future tonight than we felt last night."
Of course, most seemed to agree that there is a lot of work to do, but there is a lot of faith in Gold Country that progress will be made. This loss gave the fan base hope, something which it hasn't had in a long time.
As for the players, I'm sure they're frustrated, and I'm sure they are upset that they were just a few plays from shocking the nation. But I'm also guessing that they have to feel good about themselves. This is a team that was down 19-3 at halftime, and held USC scoreless at home, in the 2nd half. You can see from practices, and even from following the players on Twitter that they are working their tails off. These are guys that are going to bed early, waking up early, working out, going to practice, class, and have probably had their routines changed quite a bit in the past few months. You have to think that when you sacrifice so much, you want to see results. This has to have them believing in Jerry Kill and his system.
When looking at what this means to Coach Kill, it's obvious to see he is not satisfied. I would never want a head coach that is satisfied with any loss, no matter how respectable it is. From his appearance on the Sports Huddle this morning, he said things like, "We're disappointed . . . in a position to win . . . thought we should have won," and "we have a lot of studying to do, viewing game tapes today . . .not enough hours in the day to correct problems."
That's exactly the kind of mentality and responsibility that makes Gopher fans even more hopeful and excited. He hasn't made excuses, he has probably undersold the team and their abilities. Personally, I find that refreshing. There were a number of things that I'm excited about, from Gary Tinsley to Max Shortell, Brandon Green's return (and our receiving team in general), Lamonte Edwards, the list goes on and on, but the most promising part of this entire team is Jerry Kill to me. The fact that he took a young team that came out full or nerves, and changed his game plan at the half to make the Gophers look poised and driven, was impressive.
With all of this being said, we're still 0-1, and there is a lot of work to do and a lot to be proven. I do have a gut feeling now that this season won't be as painful as I had imagined it would be, and I look forward to an upset or two...or three….;).