Notebook: Just second win, but an emotional high

Josh Katzenstein

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. âÄì To Adam Weber, something special happened to the Minnesota football team this week. The senior quarterback said it had something to do with interim head coach Jeff HortonâÄôs speech on Friday night, which carried a simple message: Nine consecutive losses was enough. Whatever it was, the Gophers looked comfortable in their 38-34 win, reaching an emotional high âÄî tears included âÄî that seemed impossible over the past nine weeks. âÄúIt felt like we won a national championship and it should be like that,âÄù Horton said. âÄúIt may be a second win, but those kids deserve it.âÄù WhatâÄôs most impressive for the Gophers is that they clawed back after relinquishing a 10-point first-half lead. Minnesota blew a lead in four of its nine losses this season. âÄúEven when they kept on scoring,âÄù Weber said, âÄúwe always knew that we would have something else and we could answer.âÄù That seemed like a complete attitude adjustment for a team that lost its two previous games by a combined 83-18. The Gophers won in Champaign two years ago as well, knocking off an Illini team fresh off a Rose Bowl appearance. Minnesota entered that game 5-1, though, so while it was an upset, SaturdayâÄôs win carried a little more emotional value. âÄúNobody gave us a chance to win this game,âÄù cornerback Troy Stoudermire said. âÄúWe just came out here and took it.âÄù WeberâÄôs run Weber spent the past nine games on the losing sideline watching his senior season slip away with every week. So when the quarterback had a chance to carry the Minnesota football team to a needed victory on Saturday, he took the opportunity and ran with it. Literally. âÄúI was just trying to get a first down,âÄù said Weber of his 29-yard run on third-and-10 with a little more than two minutes left that kept the GophersâÄô drive âÄî and hopes âÄî alive. After watching his backup MarQueis Gray run for 40 yards on 10 carries, Weber proved why heâÄôs still the starter by running the Gophers to midfield on a called quarterback draw that followed two dropped passes, including one by Gray. âÄúHe looked pretty good to me,âÄù Gray said about WeberâÄôs run. âÄúI loved it. HeâÄôs the man for it, and he got us down there in position to score.âÄù WeberâÄôs other teammates were impressed, too. McKnight joked that he looked like Michael Vick. Tight end Eric Lair added Donovan McNabb and the late Steve McNair to possible doppelgangers. ThatâÄôs not to mention McKnightâÄôs other comparison: âÄúHe looked as fast as âÄòQueis right there.âÄù Brewster on their mind The Gophers win at Illinois in 2008 was arguably the signature win under Tim Brewster, who was fired Oct. 17. Though this win wonâÄôt make them bowl eligible, it still brought the thought of Brewster back for some players who were in that game and know that Illinois is BrewsterâÄôs alma mater. âÄúHe should feel 100 percent involved in this win because were still playing for him and with him in mind,âÄù Weber said. âÄúThis is a big win for us but also for coach Brew.âÄù Weber and Gray said they both planned to speak with Brewster after the win. Extra points – Kicker Eric Ellestad’s 45-yard wind-aided field goal in the second quarter was a career long. – Stoudermire’s interception on the final play of the game was the first of his career. – Junior tight end Tiree Eure had his first career touchdown on a 14-yard catch in the second quarter. – Ryan Wynn made his first start since 2008, entering at left tackle in place of the injured Ed Olson. Wynn also played right guard during the game. Related: – Gophers complete comeback to knock off IllinoisGophers vs. Illinois live blog