WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- MarQueis Gray said something at the end of a postgame interview that surprised me, considering how easily Purdue had dismissed the Gophers just a few minutes earlier. Minnesota doesn't play next week, and the junior quarterback said the bye will help.
"The season's not going as we planned, so I figure we get this bye to settle down, get our bodies healed, learn from our mistakes and get better," Gray said. "We should be ready for Nebraska."
Whoa, whoa. Nebraska? The 14th-ranked Cornhuskers? The preseason pick to win the Legends Division? I looked at him to see if he really believed that, but if he was lying, he hides it well.
The Gophers have lost 14 straight games to Nebraska -- their last win was in 1960 -- but Gray has said several times this fall that Kill has the team believing that their hard work will pay off. Eventually.
The coach even said it again on Saturday, after a humbling rout against an unexceptional Boilermakers team.
"There's a lot of kids in that room who want to get better," Kill said. "I mean, it's hard. It's hard on the coaches, it's hard on the kids, it's hard on the fans. I don't know any way out of something, if things don't go right, except work.
"But the ones who fight through it, that go the positive way, they'll get rewarded sometime."
Maybe so. But the odds are against it coming against Nebraska.
Still, it's clear the Gophers don't believe they will go winless in the Big Ten, despite a cumulative 69-3 first-half score in the first two games. It sometimes seems pretty hopeless, but a couple of players said this week that it reminds them of the out-of-nowhere two-game winning streak to close the 2010 season. Nobody thought they would win another game -- except the players.
"I know we can still go out there and compete," said offensive lineman Chris Bunders. "As long as we keep working toward something, I'm more than happy to keep working. We're going to win -- it may just take a little time."
"Unfortunately, we've been through this before," linebacker Mike Rallis said. "But we know we can come out of it. You just keep fighting."