Gophers bond after loss to Purdue

by Jeff Sherry

Since the beginning of the season, the Gophers football team has described itself as closer and more unified than last year’s squad.
That became apparent at the end of its 30-27 loss at Purdue on Saturday. The game got tight at the end, and so did Minnesota’s players.
The Gophers trailed by three points with less than two minutes left in the game and had moved the ball near midfield. As Minnesota prepared for its final fourth down try, Ross-Ade Stadium reached its peak of noise and tension.
Meanwhile, something unique was taking place on Minnesota’s sideline. The Gophers’ defense congregated in front of the team bench. The unit stood in a long line — still and silent — and held hands in a long line. The spontaneous gesture continued to spread until most of the team stood holding hands.
After Minnesota’s pass play fell incomplete and Purdue ran the clock out, defensive tackle and team co-captain Jerome Davis spoke up to make sure the team stuck together. The senior was in the midst of a full-blown pep scream when the media was allowed into the locker room.
Later, still filled with emotion, Davis spoke about how the Gophers can’t be brought down by the loss.
“The University of Minnesota football team is a family, and a loss by three points is not going to divide us in any way,” Davis said. “This team has too much character, and we’ve worked too damn hard to have a negative effect over a loss like this.”
Davis said this team is much closer than last season’s team. A lot of that has to do with the adversity it has faced over the last year.
“We made a commitment in the offseason when we were going through problems off the field that we’re not going to divide in any way,” he said. “The bottom line is we’re a team. We’re a family. We’re going to cheer each other on. We’re not going to point fingers when we lose — we’re going to learn from our losses.
“We just have to do our job and continue to work harder. We need to get ready for Northwestern, have a good week of practice, and take it up another notch.”
Jackson back in action
Junior running back Javon Jackson, who slightly tore his hamstring in practice Aug. 21, dressed for the first time this season and saw some limited action against Purdue.
Jackson was projected as the team’s probable starter at running back before the injury. He rushed three times for nine yards. Redshirt freshman Thomas Hamner started his fourth straight game.
“I felt pretty good,” Jackson said. “I didn’t get to test (the hamstring) like I wish I could’ve, but that’s OK. The coaches told me before the game that they wanted to hold me back a little bit and make sure it’ll be alright for next week.”
Jackson said his leg was “90-something percent” healed after the Purdue game. He’s confident he’ll see considerably more playing time this Saturday at Northwestern.
“I think (the hamstring) felt great,” Jackson said. “It felt good to go out there and run around a little bit and get banged up a little bit. I enjoyed it.”
Gophers overconfident?
There were several reasons why Minnesota lost to the Boilermakers, but receiver Greg Nelson pointed to one factor in particular.
“We took them for granted and look where it got us,” Nelson said. “We knew we were more talented than they were, kind of like Syracuse felt they were more talented than we were. (Syracuse) took us for granted, and we showed the same attitude against Purdue.”
Two-minute drill
ù Gophers receiver Ryan Thelwell’s 16-yard reception in the first quarter was the 100th of his career.
ù Purdue kicker Chris Arnce’s 37-yard field goal was the first of his career, and it equalled the team’s longest successful kick since 1992.
ù The Purdue student section sat mostly empty Saturday. Purdue was enjoying its “October Break”, which gave the students Monday and today off.