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Potential “Gold” with U Win Over PSU

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November 10, 2019


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Coach P.J. Fleck’s University of Minnesota team made a dramatic statement to the college football world Saturday when the No. 13 ranked Golden Gophers upset No. 5 Penn State in Minneapolis. Minnesota’s 31-26 win over the Nittany Lions came in a game the Gophers controlled, and the outcome moved the program to heavyweight status among Power Five Conferences.

The 9-0 Gophers are deserving of a top 10 national ranking by the major polls including the Associated Press. With three games remaining on the regular season schedule, the school that has won nine consecutive games for the first time since 1904 now deserves that kind of attention.

For years the program that often didn’t seem to know how to spell R-e-s-p-e-c-t, now has earned it. Can we all spell C-r-e-d-i-b-i-l-i-t-y?

It will be interesting to see how far Minnesota advances in the College Football Playoff Rankings this week. The Gophers are one of only five undefeated Power Five teams remaining in college football. Last week Minnesota was ranked No. 17 in the CFP listings.

P.J. Fleck

Fleck, the third-year coach who was doubted and mocked by the local citizenry and media, has a team that is not only surprisingly undefeated but improving every week. Already among the favorites to win national coach of the year awards, Fleck could be the honoree if Minnesota can sweep its last three games. In yesterday’s game at least two Gophers added to their profiles for earning national honors after the season. Wide receiver Rashod Bateman was unstoppable, coming up with 203 yards in receptions, while Gopher safety Antoine Winfield Jr. had two timely interceptions.

The potential is there for Minnesota to win its first ever Big Ten West Division championship. The 6-0 (league games) Gophers are being chased by 4-2 Wisconsin and 3-3 Iowa, and maybe 4-3 upstart Illinois. Minnesota’s remaining regular season schedule is at Iowa next Saturday, at Northwestern (0-7) November 23 and then home on November 30 versus Wisconsin.

Minnesota hasn’t defeated Iowa and Wisconsin in the same season since 1990. The Gophers haven’t won a game in Iowa City since 1999. Minnesota has won 11 consecutive games dating back to 2018 when the Fleckers defeated Wisconsin in the last regular season game and Georgia Tech in a bowl game, and now on November 30 the Gophers could beat Bucky in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1993-1994.

The list of implications that came out of yesterday’s mega win is long and includes the prospect of Minnesota advancing to the Big Ten title game next month and playing competitively against Ohio State, viewed as the best team in the country by those who put out the College Football Playoff Rankings. A 12-0 record going into Indianapolis to play the Buckeyes could put Minnesota into the driver’s seat for the program’s first Rose Bowl invite since 1962. That kind of success would be an eye-opener for impressionable high quality recruits around the country who are likely to think about grabbing an “oar” and heading to Minneapolis.

The most optimistic of fans—and some are probably still partying after yesterday’s program turning win—are chortling that the Gophers are contenders to earn their way to the four-team playoffs. In an improbable season, those in the Optimists Hall of Fame are thinking bigger than I am.

Make no mistake, though, the Gophers are likely to sustain success this season. They might lose a couple of games in a closing stretch against the top-25 Hawkeyes and Badgers. A string of unfortunate injuries to Minnesota’s best playmakers could spoil the fun in the games ahead, but so many good things are already in place with more coming.

The Gophers are headed to a credible, if not prestigious, bowl game—see you later Motown. Ticket sales will increase next year, and should be jumping for the home finale to keep possession of Paul Bunyan’s Axe. Fleck’s getting love from fans and learned yesterday he can have a happy football marriage in this on and off the bandwagon town. Athletic director Mark Coyle has already won his presentation to the U Board of Regents next month when he asks for formal approval of the coach’s new seven-year extension.

Donation checks should be on the upswing to the Athletic Department and the University. A Rose Bowl win will goose donations like it did years ago when bottom feeders Big Ten Wisconsin and Northwestern rose up and said, “Pasadena here we come.”

Are you listening T. Denny Sanford?

Hey, Lee Corso, you listen up too. Before Saturday’s game the confident Corso said this about Penn State on ESPN College GameDay: “They’re gonna sink that Minnesota boat.”

Nope. Yesterday the Gophers bagged a Nittany Lion.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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