Column: Status quo working for Gophers, ya feel me?

Samuel Gordon

After Saturday’s monumental win over Nebraska, defensive coordinator and acting head coach Tracy Claeys told ESPN in an on-camera interview that Gophers football will always be Jerry Kill’s program.

But Minnesota’s last two wins have had as much to do with Claeys as anyone else.

He’s guided the team in its two most impressive games of the season — two wins that just so happen to be the program’s most significant victories in the Kill era.

I’m not around Claeys at practice. I’m not on the sidelines during games. But whatever he’s doing is working.

Since Kill’s leave of absence thrust Claeys into the coaching spotlight, he has been pure class, and the Gophers have reflected that professionalism. His team is well-prepared and disciplined, and the results are undeniable.

Minnesota’s defense, which Claeys oversees, handled Northwestern’s offense. Against Nebraska on Saturday, it shut down dynamic quarterback Taylor Martinez.

Claeys is leaving the offense to Matt Limegrover, who has pushed the correct quarterback and play-calling buttons in both wins.

But what’s most impressive about Claeys’ stint as head honcho is the way he’s held the team together after it looked like it was destined for another long season in the Big Ten.

Not only were the Gophers blown out in their first two conference games, but their head coach was leaving the team for an indefinite period of time.

Minnesota was mired in uncertainty, facing questions about both its head coach and its quarterback.

Under Claeys, those questions have answered themselves.

The players have credited Kill’s resilience as an inspiration, but Claeys’ management has been just as pivotal.

His head coaching stint for the Gophers will eventually come to an end, but he’s already done more than enough to earn some looks from schools that will be in need of a head coach.

On Sunday, Claeys told reporters he’d listen to teams with head coaching vacancies despite his mother’s precautions about the stress that comes with the position.

“That’s why I have tremendous respect for Jerry,” he said. “And people don’t understand, [as a head coach], you’re responsible for so many more things every day.”

I understand that completely, coach. And that’s why, in these last two weeks, I’ve developed so much respect for you.

Ya feel me?