Nov 23, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers linebacker Aaron Hill (57) returns an interception for a touchdown in the second quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
A record crowd of 53,090 came to TCF Bank Stadium to watch the Gophers lose to arch rival Wisconsin and walk away with Paul Bunyan’s axe for the 10th straight year. Despite the loss, one thing was apparent – the Gophers have closed the talent gap substantially.
The effort from the Maroon and Gold was outstanding but the only thing lacking was the execution on the offensive side, but that will come soon. Keep in mind the only senior starter on the field for the offense on Saturday was tackle Ed Olson.
Let’s take a look at what we can take away from last Saturday’s game with the Badgers and what it means for the future.
WHAT I LIKED
Minnesota’s defense: The defense was great, holding Wisconsin to their lowest point total of the year. They also held the Badgers to just 197 yards rushing, which is 100 yards below their season average. Add to that the fact that the Gophers offense did them no favors by turning the ball over three times and leaving them to defend a short field and it made the performance even more impressive.
The crowd: It was the largest crowd ever at TCF Bank Stadium and a majority of them were wearing maroon and gold. Unlike the old Metrodome days when seemingly 50 percent of the crowd was decked out in red versus the Badgers.
The gentleman sitting next to me who happened to be a Wisconsin fan: If you’re drinking coffee, please finish your last sip and put it down before reading the rest of this paragraph. Okay, ready? He was all class! He was complimentary of the Gophers, the stadium, Coach Kill, and seemed genuine about it. It made losing to Wisconsin more tolerable, sitting by a good dude that wasn’t rubbing it in with over the top arrogance. It was refreshing to see a respectful Badgers fan for once.
The game day atmosphere: Playing a relevant game in late November can work wonders for game day atmosphere. That was easily the most buzz I’ve ever seen around TCF Bank Stadium prior to kickoff. Until the Gophers failed to convert a fourth down play late in the final quarter, the crowd was loud and buzzing. I was standing the entire game as were most of the folks in section 111.
David Cobb: Cobb is legitimately turning into one of the best backs in the Big Ten. He runs with power, speed, decisiveness, and is brilliant catching the ball out of the backfield.
Defending the goalpost: I loved it! When Minnetonka native Beau Allen streaked for the Gophers goalpost on the other end of the stadium to “chop it down” the Gophers said “not so fast my friend!” Philip Nelson was quoted as saying it’s a pride thing. I think it upped the ante in the rivalry. The Gophers are no longer going to be seen as pushovers.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Dropped passes: Philip Nelson was far from perfect, but the first two drives of the game were three and outs thanks to Donovhan Jones and Drew Wolitarsky dropping passes that hit them in the hands. There were several drops after that as well. I’m sure the weather had something to do with it, but you can’t drop that many passes and expect to beat a team like Wisconsin.
The cold: I couldn’t feel my toes!
The outcome: Losing to Wisconsin is a tough pill to swallow, despite playing as 16 point underdogs.
The turnovers: If you lose the turnover battle to a team that’s better than you, it’s difficult to win the game. The Gophers turned the ball over three times.