Gopher football: Season wrap-up

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Gopher football: Season wrap-up

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The 2019 Gopher football regular season was one for the books. The team finished with a 10-2 record and the number 7 ranking in the FBS at one point, the highest-ranking they’ve had since 1962. They had the two finalists for Big Ten Receiver of the Year in Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson, the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year in Antoine Winfield, Jr., and the Coach of the Year in P.J. Fleck.

The Gophers were on pace for a matchup with Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship before being tragically upset by the Badgers at home in the final week of the season. The Gopher faithful showed out in a big way, battling freezing cold temperatures all day at Northrop to tailgate with the broadcast team from ESPN’s College Gameday. It was the first time the legendary College Gameday crew came to Minnesota, and it was certainly one to remember.

Most people from out of state just assume Minnesota is basically Canada and the climate doesn’t provide much but snow after the summer season. Well, if that’s what they were expecting when they tuned into ESPN that Saturday morning, that’s pretty much what they got. We had fans battling the elements at 4:00 a.m. just hoping to make it on TV. Once the broadcast started up at 9:00 a.m., the first ones on TV were the shirtless gopher fans, getting hailed on, with chest hair shaved into the shape of Paul Bunyan’s ax.

Someone told me the University of Minnesota gets electric when you start spelling things”

— Pat McAfee

Pat McAfee, arguably the most famous punter and sports commentator in the history of football, couldn’t get enough of the Minnesota fans’ energy, stating multiple times, “Someone told me the University of Minnesota gets electric when you start spelling things…M…I…N…N…E…S…O…T…A.” Obviously thousands of excited fans finished his cheer and with great enthusiasm, lighting up the whole campus. I personally received a fist bump from the man himself, and it’s a moment I will never forget.

Although the Gophs took a tough loss in the final game vs Wisco, the team left their mark on the university and the Big Ten alike. P.J. Fleck has shown that he is really building for the future, and having high ranks and winning big games will undoubtedly lead the Gophers to better recruits, and future success under the Fleck era.

This season had a lot of high points led by a great senior class that will surely be missed next season. Trying to fill the holes of linebackers like Coughlin and Martin and a receiver like Johnson is no easy task, but with the way the younger guys are learning a new culture of success, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the next man step up and make the team even stronger.

With their 10-2 record, the Gophers are bowl-eligible and will be facing off with the Auburn Tigers in Tampa, Florida, on New Year’s Day for the Outback Bowl. It’s one of four (assuming Ohio State plays LSU in the championship) games with a Big Ten vs SEC matchup this bowl season.

The Tigers are a formidable opponent, coming in ranked number 12 in the country (Gophers are 18), with an impressive resume including a win over Alabama. The classic Minnesota fan hears that and immediately thinks we lost, but that’s been the exact mindset Fleck has looked to get rid of this season, famously saying, “I want to change people’s perception, and I’m sure there was a lot of people in the crowd today that said, ‘Oh here we go again.’ We have to get that out of their mindset. I don’t care what happened 20 years ago, 40 years ago, two years ago. That has nothing to do with the future. We won today because we have unbelievable players, unbelievable coaches, and an unbelievable culture. That was one of the best college football environments I have ever seen.”