Column: Gophers got huge break, ya feel me?

by Samuel Gordon

In the Glen Mason era, the Gophers lose that game.

In the Tim Brewster era, the Gophers lose that game.

But in the Jerry Kill era, it’s becoming increasingly clear as the weeks pass and the wins pile up that there’s something different about this season.

Good teams catch breaks, and for years, Minnesota was on the wrong end of those types of breaks.

But on Saturday, after blowing a three-touchdown lead in the second half, the Gophers cashed in on Indiana’s poor execution.

“It was crazy. I was just sitting there, praying that somebody would step up,” quarterback Philip Nelson said. “The Lord was good to us.”

It certainly seems that way — especially after a decade and a half of heartbreaking losses in similar situations.

By overcoming Saturday’s Brewster-esque collapse, Minnesota showcased heart and guts it hasn’t had in years past.

When Indiana nabbed the lead late in the fourth quarter, the Gophers promptly responded with a touchdown drive of their own.

Nelson, who’s been almost flawless the last three weeks, was as poised as they come in completing a key third-down pass to Donovahn Jones during the go-ahead drive.

Nelson is a different quarterback now than he was at the beginning of the season. He’s careful in his decision-making and accurate in his delivery.

And guys around Nelson are performing at an All-Big Ten level, too.

David Cobb has morphed into one of the best running backs in the Big Ten. At 5 feet 11 inches and 225 pounds, he’s built like an NFL running back, and his bruising running style has helped him gain 429 yards the last three games.

As Kill hinted Sunday, confidence breeds confidence. He said positive energy is festering in the locker room this season the same way negativity did in the past.

“Kids are just believing in each other, and as long as they keep believing in each other, then we’ll have a chance to win,” defensive coordinator and acting head coach Tracy Claeys said after the win.

The Gophers, underdogs in their last three games, should be favored this week at home against Penn State. And if they win that game, the Wisconsin game on Nov. 23 will be the biggest in TCF Bank Stadium’s lifetime.

It’s November, and Minnesota has nothing but meaningful football left on the schedule — unfamiliar territory for the program.

Senior defensive back Brock Vereen said it best after the game.

“Two years ago, we aren’t winning these games,” he said.

This season, the Gophers are winning those games. And being a factor in the Big Ten is something this team should get used to.

At least for the rest of this season.

Ya feel me?