The days of Maroney and Barber seemed to be long gone. That is, until this year. Head Coach Jerry Kill has finally put more of an emphasis on keeping Minnesota prep players in Minnesota for college ball and it seems to be paying large dividends for the Gophers.
The Minnesota Gophers didn’t wait long to have their first big moment of the season. In the first game of the season against UNLV it was a Field Goal by Jordan Wettstein in triple OT that lifted the Gophers over the Rebels 30-27.
In the second game of the season MarQueis Gray provided 4 td’s in a blowout of a New Hampshire team 44-7.
On September 13th it was Max Shortell replacing an injured MarQueis Gray to throw for 3 td’s to make the improve the Golden Gophers record to 3-0.
In week 4 it was Donnell Kirkwood and the Gopher Defense that thwarted and Orangemen team from Syracuse 17-10 to help the Gophers improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2008. Kirkwood rushed for 99 yards and 2 td’s and the defense held Syracuse’s high octane offense to just 350 total yards.
Needing a win in week 8 to stay in the picture for bowl season an unlikely hero answered the bell against Purdue as freshman quarterback Philip Nelson Threw for 3 scores in the first half of only his 2nd career start. The Gophers coasted to this win 44-28, which is the largest victory over the boiler makers since 1989. To make this seem even more impressive, Nelson played well even with 3 of the 5 starting offensive lineman sidelined due to injury.
No Doubt the biggest and most obvious of big moments in the Gophers quest to get back into a bowl game was when they squared off against the Fighting Illini in Champaign Illinois on November 12th. The Gophers who had started the season 4-0 were now hobbled by injuries to key components of the team and had landed at 5-4 heading into this day. The game started out painfully slow with both teams trading field goals , Illinois in the first and Minnesota in the 2nd respectively. The Gophers seemed determined to keep the ball on the ground throughout the game with Kirkwood who broke the game open with a 3 yard scamper into the end zone in the 3rd quarter. But, it was a 12 yard td scored by Kirkwood coming after an Illini fumble at their own 29 yard line on a 3rd and short that sealed the win. With this victory the Gophers became bowl eligible for the first time since 2009 and will be playing in the Meineke car care bowl. The game will be played in Houston Texas on December 28th against the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
This surely has been an exciting season for the Golden Gophers and Head Coach Jerry Kill. It now seems as if the Gophers football program may once again be relevant under his leadership. I for one will be the first to say it’s about time!