Andy Greder / St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS -- Could this — finally — be the year the Gophers beat the Badgers in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe? Minnesota has lost 14 consecutive football games to Wisconsin since 2003 and 11 in a row in Madison since 1994. The memories of past Gophers wins have faded — if they ever existed for some. “For me, I can’t even remember the Gophers ever having it,” said Gophers senior linebacker Blake Cashman, from Eden Prairie, Minn., who was 7 years old in 2003.
MINNEAPOLIS — Blake Cashman wasn’t done. The Gophers linebacker had just posted 20 tackles — a TCF Bank Stadium record for a Minnesota player — when he sought out fellow seniors on the field after Northwestern’s 24-14 win Saturday, Nov. 17. With linebacker Julian Huff, defensive tackle Gary Moore and long snapper Payton Jordahl, Cashman savored the fleeting moments after his last home game on Senior Day.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Northwestern showed why they’re the Big Ten West champions on Saturday, Nov. 17, at a cold TCF Bank Stadium. Minnesota followed the precedent it set during a season spent in or near the division basement. The No. 22-ranked Wildcats scored 10 points off three Gophers turnovers and relied on its stingy rush defense to produce a 24-14 win.
Gophers offense vs. Northwestern defense: QB Tanner Morgan is 2-1 as a starter, but in last Saturday’s 41-10 win over Purdue, he threw for a season-low 139 yards, a number diminished by four drops from receivers. The Gophers lead the Big Ten and are 11th in the nation in yards per completion (14.6), with the potential for big plays against a shorthanded NU secondary. The Wildcats will be without starting cornerbacks Trae Williams and Montre Hartage and a top safety in Jared McGee.
MINNEAPOLIS -- To say Minnesota’s offense was plodding in the last two games of the 2017 season would be putting it politely. In losses to Northwestern and Wisconsin, the Gophers were scoreless while averaging 157 yards of total offense. This year, Minnesota’s offense is surging into those same matchups, starting against West Division champion Northwestern at 11 a.m. Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.
MINNEAPOLIS — During the Gophers basketball team’s season-opening win over Nebraska Omaha on Tuesday, coach Richard Pitino drew insights from a new stat on the box score. The NCAA’s latest stats software now offers what has been common in the NBA: plus-minus, which tracks how players affect the game’s score.
MINNEAPOLIS — The poor performances attributed to Robb Smith’s defenses at Minnesota were often exacerbated by the play of the position group he oversaw. When Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck dismissed Smith as his defensive coordinator a week ago, breakdowns from linebackers were a factor.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Gophers were reeling, and the outlook was murky. Minnesota’s defense was lost; its coordinator had been fired; and a foe with top-flight offense was up next. But so much for the overwhelming evidence sealing the fate in another blowout loss.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Since the first week of January, the Gophers men’s basketball team has been looking to start fresh after its season gone sideways. Ten months ago, Minnesota’s promising 13-3 start unraveled when center Reggie Lynch was suspended over sexual assault investigations and guard Amir Coffey hurt his shoulder. Lynch was later expelled and Coffey was shutdown for the season.
MINNEAPOLIS — When asked of his decision to go for it on a fourth-down play last week, P.J. Fleck said he needed to set an aggressive example for his Gophers program. That went steps further Sunday night, Nov. 4, when Minnesota's head football coach fired his defensive coordinator Robb Smith after 21 games together. Before his first season in 2017, Fleck hired Smith after the pair had worked as assistants under Greg Schiano at Rutgers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After respectable stats a year ago, Fleck ended their partnership after the Gophers (4-5) allowed Big Ten opponents to average 43 points per game during a 1-5 start in the conference.