Gophers goal: Create another 'Nebraska Saturday'

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 25, 2014 - 6:59 AM

Will the impact from a Nebraska upset last fall mean more victories this season or a stronger future?

hide

Gophers offensive lineman Josh Campion was caught in the postgame hysteria after last October’s 34-23 victory over Nebraska at TCF Bank Stadium. This year’s game against the Cornhuskers is on Nov. 22 in Lincoln.

The fans in maroon and gold sweatshirts at the team hotel meant well, but Tracy Claeys sensed their doubts.

He and the other Gophers football coaches had awoken that cool morning, last Oct. 26, feeling certain their game plan for Nebraska could work. Players were equally confident at the team breakfast and welcomed everyone’s well wishes as they assembled for the short bus ride to campus.

“There are some good people, good fans out there,” Claeys said the next day. “But they’ll say, ‘Boy, you’ve got a tough one today.’ Everywhere the players go, that’s all they hear.”

Claeys, the day’s acting head coach, wasn’t faulting anyone. Oddsmakers had pegged the Gophers as 10-point underdogs, and given their history, it was fair to wonder if this would be that close. Minnesota was 0-16 against Nebraska since 1960, had lost those games by an average of 31.5 points, and hadn’t even held a lead against the Cornhuskers since 1969.

But this day would be different. By game’s end, attitudes would change. The Gophers could feel it on the bus, as they followed their police escort to TCF Bank Stadium. For four quarters, they would reshape a rivalry, re-establish beliefs and legitimize a rebuilding effort.

They essentially dominated the game’s final 50 minutes and then celebrated in a sea of fans a 34-23 victory that will stand as the first signature victory of the Jerry Kill Era. It was arguably the biggest win for the Gophers since they broke into the Big House in 2005 and beat Michigan.

Now, as a new season begins this week, the Gophers can scan their schedule and aspire to make more magical moments. Maybe they’ll pull off another win at Michigan (Sept. 26). Maybe they’ll stun a beat-up Ohio State team in Minneapolis (Nov. 15). Maybe they’ll reclaim Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the first time in 11 years when they play at Wisconsin (Nov. 29).

The possibilities are one reason why people love college football. Teams across the nation are dreaming of days like the Gophers had against Nebraska — when a game plan comes together perfectly, when players stretch themselves beyond their supposed limits, when a team’s own expectations are finally met, and yes, when legions of doubters end up storming the field.

Pregame

At 10:40 a.m., 20 minutes before kickoff, Kill pulled the Gophers together inside their vast locker room for a quick pep talk.

He wore a maroon pullover, with a purple ribbon pinned at the crest for the Gophers second annual Epilepsy Awareness Game. Three weeks earlier, a seizure had kept Kill from making the trip to Michigan, forcing him to miss a full game for the first time in his 30-year coaching career.

Kill had taken a two-week leave to treat his epilepsy and then surprised players by showing up for their upset victory at Northwestern. He spent the Nebraska game in the press box, while Claeys served as acting coach on the sideline.

But behind the scenes, Kill had remained the team’s inspirational leader. Like usual, his players took a knee to hear this speech.

“Life is about one day a time; ain’t nothing guaranteed,” Kill told them. “So when you get done today, just know you did your best.”

A turning point

Sunshine covered the five-year-old stadium, which would fill with a near-capacity crowd of 49,995. The Gophers came through their tunnel wearing maroon jerseys and gold pants, and Nebraska wore its classic road attire — white jerseys, red pants and those famous white helmets with the red “N.”

Nebraska was 5-1, having reeled off three easy wins since a disappointing meltdown against UCLA. Senior quarterback Taylor Martinez was back from a foot injury. He and the Cornhuskers had throttled the Gophers 38-14 one year earlier in Lincoln, and this started ominously for Minnesota, too.

Martinez lofted a 42-yard pass to Kenny Bell, setting up a quick touchdown, and drove the Cornhuskers to Minnesota’s 17-yard-line on the second drive. The student section was still rubbing sleep from its eyes, and Nebraska was poised to take a two-touchdown lead.

  • 2014 SCHEDULE

    TV: The first two games are on the Big Ten Network, the TCU game will be on Fox Sports 1 and the rest are yet to be announced.

    Date Opponent Location Time

    Aug. 28 vs. Eastern Illinois TCF Bank Stadium 6:00 p.m.

    Sept. 6 vs. Middle Tenn. St. TCF Bank Stadium 2:30 p.m.

    Sept. 13 at TCU Fort Worth, Texas 3:00 p.m.

    Sept. 20 vs. San Jose State TCF Bank Stadium TBA

    Sept. 27 at Michigan Ann Arbor, Mich. TBA

    Oct. 11 vs. Northwestern TCF Bank Stadium TBA

    Oct. 18 vs. Purdue TCF Bank Stadium 11:00 a.m.

    Oct. 25 at Illinois Champaign, Ill. 11:00 a.m.

    Nov. 8 vs. Iowa TCF Bank Stadium TBA

    Nov. 15 vs. Ohio State TCF Bank Stadium TBA

    Nov. 22 at Nebraska Lincoln, Neb. TBA

    Nov. 29 at Wisconsin Madison, Wis. TBA

    GOPHERS season opener

    6 p.m. Thursday vs. Eastern Illinois TCF Bank Stadium • TV: BTN (107.9-FM)

    PREVIEW WEEK

    Today: Gophers’ goal: Another Nebraska

    Monday: national preview

    Tuesday: Big Ten East preview

    Wednesday: Big Ten West preview

    Thursday: Gophers gameday

    Signature victory no. 2?

    Signature win no. 2?

    If the Gophers pull off another whopper this season, it will come on one of these days:

    Sept. 27: The Gophers could bust into the Big House and beat a lesser Michigan team.

    Nov. 8: If Iowa, preseason ranked just outside the Top 25, exceeds expectations and rides high into TCF, a takedown here would be big.

    Nov. 15: Even without Braxton Miller, Ohio State is still a juicy, big-name target at TCF for the Gophers.

    Nov. 22: Beating Nebraska at home was one thing. A win in Lincoln would be a true stunner.

    Nov. 29: Pry Paul Bunyan’s Axe from the Badgers in Madison and Kill would have his biggest W yet.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Dallas 6:00 PM
Orlando
Sacramento 6:00 PM
Indiana
Toronto 6:00 PM
Washington
Houston 6:30 PM
Detroit
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Cleveland 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
Memphis
Portland 7:30 PM
Milwaukee
LA Clippers 8:00 PM
San Antonio
Charlotte 8:00 PM
Denver
Phoenix 9:30 PM
Golden State
Washington 0 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 1
NY Islanders 1 3rd Prd 12:46
Detroit 2
Arizona 1 2nd Prd
Ottawa 1
Los Angeles 6:00 PM
Boston
Florida 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Carolina 6:00 PM
NY Rangers
Toronto 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Dallas 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Columbus 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Edmonton 9:00 PM
Calgary
Chicago 9:30 PM
San Jose
Boston College 49 FINAL
Clemson 64
Western Mich 63 FINAL
Eastern Mich 69
NC State 81 FINAL
Georgia Tech 80
Wisconsin 74 FINAL
Iowa 63
Stony Brook 48 FINAL
New Hampshire 63
Notre Dame 72 FINAL
Pittsburgh 76
Providence 66 FINAL
St Johns 75
Davidson 70 FINAL
Saint Josephs 75
Xavier 82 FINAL
Seton Hall 90
Tulane 37 FINAL
Temple 55
Auburn 63 FINAL
Tennessee 71
Texas Tech 58 FINAL
West Virginia 77
Arkansas 56 FINAL
Florida 57
Penn State 58 FINAL
Illinois 60
Lipscomb 73 FINAL
Stetson 75
South Florida 71 FINAL
Tulsa 78
Bradley 58 FINAL
Indiana State 64
UMass Lowell 69 2nd Half 0:15
Binghamton 75
Green Bay 62 FINAL
Cleveland State 76
Georgetown 67 FINAL
Creighton 40
Coll of Charleston 55 2nd Half 1:44
Delaware 65
Villanova 58 2nd Half 5:08
DePaul 48
Vermont 65 FINAL
Hartford 46
TCU 66 FINAL
Iowa State 83
Kennesaw St 51 FINAL
Jacksonville 50
Kansas State 54 2nd Half 0:23
Kansas 67
Boston Univ 77 2nd Half 0:40
Lehigh 83
Illinois State 46 2nd Half 1:56
Loyola-Chicago 44
Albany 77 FINAL
Maine 59
Butler 58 1st OT
Marquette 58
LSU 63 2nd Half 0:20
Miss State 67
Mount St Marys 77 FINAL
Sacred Heart 71
Richmond 56 2nd Half 0:52
VA Commonwealth 52
Virginia Tech 65 2nd Half 1:34
Wake Forest 67
IUPU-Ft Wayne 75 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 65
Arkansas State 38 2nd Half 4:55
Georgia State 69
Loyola-Maryland 21 2nd Half
Army 24
Tenn Tech 30 2nd Half
Belmont 37
Bethune-Cookman 19 1st Half 2:38
Florida A&M 12
Valparaiso 39 2nd Half
Ill-Chicago 25
UAB 33 2nd Half
TX-San Antonio 29
Idaho State 26 2nd Half
North Dakota 37
Evansville 27 2nd Half
Drake 29
Rutgers 30 1st Half 0:03
Indiana 32
Ball State 26 1st Half 6:15
Miami-Ohio 25
Southern U 3:00 PM
Alcorn State
UNC-Wilmington 3:00 PM
Drexel
Coastal Carolina 3:00 PM
Gardner-Webb
Morgan State 3:00 PM
Howard
William & Mary 3:00 PM
James Madison
North Carolina 3:00 PM
Louisville
Coppin State 3:00 PM
MD-Eastern Shore
Ole Miss 3:00 PM
Missouri
Wichita State 3:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Loyola Marymount 3:00 PM
Pacific
Winthrop 3:00 PM
Radford
George Washington 3:00 PM
Rhode Island
Bryant 3:00 PM
Robert Morris
Long Island 3:00 PM
St Francis-NY
Fair-Dickinson 0 1st Half 19:11
St Francis-PA 2
Massachusetts 3:00 PM
Saint Louis
Georgia 3:00 PM
South Carolina
Central Conn St 2 1st Half 17:36
Wagner 6
SIU Edwardsville 3:15 PM
Eastern Ill
Ohio 3:30 PM
Central Mich
Eastern Ky 3:30 PM
Morehead State
Incarnate Word 3:30 PM
Nicholls
Campbell 3:30 PM
UNC-Asheville
Vanderbilt 3:30 PM
Texas A&M
South Alabama 4:00 PM
ULM
Western Carolina 4:00 PM
UNC Greensboro
Detroit 4:00 PM
Milwaukee
Idaho 4:05 PM
Eastern Wash
Marshall 4:30 PM
Louisiana Tech
Jackson State 4:30 PM
Miss Valley St
Houston Baptist 4:30 PM
Sam Houston St
Louisiana 4:30 PM
Texas State
Denver 4:30 PM
South Dakota St
Oral Roberts 4:30 PM
South Dakota
Texas 5:00 PM
Baylor
Citadel 5:00 PM
Chattanooga
Fresno State 5:00 PM
Colorado State
Yale 5:00 PM
Cornell
Ark-Pine Bluff 5:00 PM
Grambling St
Nebraska 5:00 PM
Minnesota
Hampton 5:00 PM
Norfolk State
Purdue 5:00 PM
Northwestern
Alabama A&M 5:00 PM
Prairie View
Dartmouth 5:00 PM
Princeton
Pepperdine 5:00 PM
St Marys-CA
NC A&T 5:00 PM
Savannah State
Delaware State 5:00 PM
SC State
Western Ky 5:00 PM
Southern Miss
Nevada 5:00 PM
Wyoming
Akron 6:00 PM
Bowling Green
Colgate 6:00 PM
Bucknell
FIU 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Brown 6:00 PM
Columbia
George Mason 6:00 PM
Duquesne
NC Central 6:00 PM
East Tenn St
Saint Peters 6:00 PM
Iona
Alabama 6:00 PM
Kentucky
Abilene Christian 6:00 PM
Lamar
Char Southern 6:00 PM
Liberty
Hawaii 6:00 PM
Long Beach State
New Orleans 6:00 PM
McNeese State
Lafayette 6:00 PM
Navy
Elon 6:00 PM
Northeastern
Fla Atlantic 6:00 PM
Old Dominion
Harvard 6:00 PM
Penn
La Salle 6:00 PM
St Bonaventure
Furman 6:00 PM
Samford
TX A&M-CC 6:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
Duke 6:00 PM
Virginia
Mercer 6:00 PM
Wofford
Northern Ky 6:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
North Florida
Longwood 6:00 PM
Presbyterian
Ark-Little Rock 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
SE Missouri St 7:00 PM
Austin Peay
CS-Northridge 7:00 PM
UC Riverside
Towson 7:00 PM
Hofstra
UT Martin 7:00 PM
Murray State
San Jose St 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Rice 7:00 PM
North Texas
Toledo 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
Oklahoma 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
San Francisco 7:00 PM
San Diego
Utah State 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Northwestern St 7:00 PM
SE Louisiana
UCF 7:00 PM
SMU
Southern Ill 7:05 PM
Missouri State
Troy 7:15 PM
Texas-Arlington
Jacksonville St 7:30 PM
Tennessee St
Alabama State 7:30 PM
Texas Southern
Stanford 7:30 PM
Washington St
Santa Clara 8:00 PM
BYU
TX-Pan American 8:00 PM
New Mexico St
Northern Ariz 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Middle Tennessee 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Weber State 8:00 PM
Northern Colorado
Chicago State 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
UC Santa Barbara 9:00 PM
UC Irvine
Memphis 9:00 PM
Gonzaga
Air Force 9:00 PM
UNLV
Cal Poly 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Seattle 9:00 PM
CS-Bakersfield
Montana State 9:05 PM
Portland State
Montana 9:05 PM
Sacramento St
Colorado 9:30 PM
UCLA
UMKC 9:30 PM
Utah Valley U
Mount St Marys 64 FINAL
Sacred Heart 71
Texas-El Paso 53 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 74
Arkansas State 61 FINAL
Georgia State 47
Bryant 84 FINAL
Robert Morris 87
Central Conn St 83 FINAL
Wagner 67
Fairleigh Dickinson 78 FINAL
St Francis-PA 60
Long Island 53 FINAL
St Francis-NY 62
Bethune-Cookman 70 FINAL
Florida A&M 57
Longwood 56 FINAL
Campbell 68
Charleston Southern 40 FINAL
Winthrop 77
Louisiana Tech 68 FINAL
Marshall 67
Ohio U 74 FINAL
Central Michigan 66
Western Mich 61 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 53
Coppin State 58 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 66
Incarnate Word 34 FINAL
Nicholls 67
Samford 46 FINAL
East Tenn St 48
Western Carolina 72 FINAL
Furman 84
Gardner-Webb 71 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 65
Liberty 58 FINAL
High Point 41
Presbyterian 46 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 59
Kent State 67 FINAL
Akron 74
Northern Ill 65 FINAL
Ball State 62
SIU-Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 48
Eastern Kentucky 58 FINAL
Morehead St 76
Holy Cross 67 FINAL
American Univ 61
Army 62 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 53
Niagara 53 FINAL
Manhattan 46
Lehigh 78 FINAL
Boston U 71
Navy 65 FINAL
Lafayette 60
Saint Josephs 57 FINAL
Davidson 52
Duquesne 56 FINAL
Fordham 46
George Washington 87 FINAL
George Mason 52
St Bonaventure 77 FINAL
Massachusetts 57
Milwaukee 64 FINAL
Youngstown St 87
Jacksonville 78 FINAL
Kennesaw St 64
North Florida 49 FINAL
USC Upstate 61
Houston 64 1st OT 0:18
Cincinnati 65
St Marys-CA 27 2nd Half
Pepperdine 19
Nebraska Omaha 20 2nd Half 20:00
IUPUI 36
Houston Baptist 36 2nd Half
Sam Houston St 25
Mercer 29 2nd Half
(25) Chattanooga 40
No Dakota State 32 2nd Half 18:21
South Dakota St 50
Oral Roberts 23 2nd Half
South Dakota 39
Southern Miss 25 2nd Half
Western Ky 31
TX-San Antonio 25 2nd Half
UAB 41
East Carolina 29 2nd Half
Tulane 23
South Florida 30 2nd Half
Memphis 27
Buffalo 48 2nd Half 11:53
Eastern Michigan 42
New Mexico St 35 2nd Half
TX-Pan American 32
Utah Valley U 22 2nd Half 15:24
UMKC 38
Jackson State 29 2nd Half
Miss Valley St 35
Louisiana 32 2nd Half 16:50
Texas State 26
South Alabama 27 2nd Half
ULM 32
Saint Louis 45 2nd Half
Dayton 49
Cleveland State 32 2nd Half
Oakland 29
Grand Canyon 33 2nd Half
Chicago State 28
UCLA 29 1st Half 9:08
Oregon 24
Washington St 21 1st Half 7:15
(12) Stanford 23
Kansas State 3:00 PM
Texas Tech
UNLV 3:00 PM
Air Force
UCF 3:00 PM
Tulsa
Delaware State 3:00 PM
SC State
San Diego State 3:00 PM
Utah State
Sacramento St 3:00 PM
Montana
Hampton 3:00 PM
Norfolk State
NC A&T 3:00 PM
Savannah State
Alabama A&M 3:00 PM
Prairie View
Toledo 3:00 PM
Bowling Green
Ark-Pine Bluff 3:00 PM
Grambling
Southern U 3:00 PM
Alcorn State
Marist 3:00 PM
Iona
Bucknell 3:00 PM
Colgate
UNC Greensboro 0 1st Half 20:00
Wofford 0
North Dakota 6 1st Half 17:46
Idaho State 4
Ark-Little Rock 3:30 PM
Georgia Southern
BYU 4:00 PM
Santa Clara
Gonzaga 4:00 PM
Portland
Pacific 4:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
Abilene Christian 4:00 PM
Lamar
Colorado State 4:00 PM
Fresno State
New Mexico 4:00 PM
San Jose St
UC Davis 4:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
San Diego 4:00 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 4:00 PM
McNeese State
TX A&M-CC 4:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
Old Dominion 4:00 PM
Florida Atlantic
Tenn Tech 4:00 PM
Belmont
Eastern Washington 4:00 PM
Idaho
Stetson 4:00 PM
Lipscomb
Washington 4:30 PM
California
USC 4:30 PM
(7) Oregon State
IUPU-Ft Wayne 4:30 PM
Western Ill
Northwestern St 4:30 PM
SE Louisiana
SE Missouri St 4:30 PM
Austin Peay
Portland State 5:00 PM
Montana State
Columbia 5:00 PM
Brown
Northern Colorado 5:00 PM
Weber State
Charlotte 5:00 PM
FIU
(19) Princeton 5:00 PM
Dartmouth
Penn 5:00 PM
Harvard
UT Martin 5:00 PM
Murray State
Troy 5:00 PM
TX-Arlington
Morgan State 77 FINAL
Howard 64
Alabama State 5:30 PM
Texas Southern
Jacksonville St 5:30 PM
Tennessee St
Wyoming 6:00 PM
Nevada
Oklahoma St 6:00 PM
Iowa State
CS-Bakersfield 6:00 PM
Seattle
La Salle 6:00 PM
VA Commonwealth
Cal-Irvine 6:00 PM
Cal Poly
Fla Gulf Coast 6:00 PM
Northern Ky
Southern Utah 7:00 PM
Northern Ariz
Green Bay 7:00 PM
Illinois-Chicago
Cal State Fullerton 9:00 PM
Long Beach St
CS-Northridge 9:00 PM
Hawaii
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which of these teams is the most frustrating to watch right now?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close