Here’s one Gophers beat writer’s view of the most important moments from this up-and-down-and-back-up season:
5. Winning Winfield
The Gophers complete a thrilling 21-14 victory over a solid Fresno State team in Week 2 when safety Antoine Winfield Jr. makes a hustling, acrobatic interception in the back of the end zone to end the Bulldogs’ final threat.
4. Dark day
Playing only two days after learning that former teammate Nick Connelly had died of cancer, the Gophers fall 42-13 at Maryland and lose Winfield to a foot injury. The Gophers defense surrenders five TDs that average nearly 50 yards per play.
Two weeks after giving up 659 yards in a 53-28 loss at Nebraska, the Gophers collapse again, giving up 646 yards in a 55-31 beatdown at Illinois. That prompts P.J. Fleck to make his biggest decision of the season, firing defensive coordinator Robb Smith.
2. Beat up Boilers
Interim defensive coordinator Joe Rossi’s debut is hit, as the Gophers hammer Purdue 41-10. Blake Cashman’s forced fumble and 40-yard return for a touchdown makes it 20-3 early in the third quarter, and then the cold Boilers lost interest.
1. The Axe comes back
The Gophers rout Wisconsin 37-15 in Madison, winning Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the first time since 2003, earning bowl eligibility and setting off a wild celebration by the team and fans at Camp Randall Stadium.