Minnesota Gophers Rowing The Boat To Victory At 2020 Outback Bowl — WCCO, CBS Minnesota

Minnesota Gophers Rowing The Boat To Victory At 2020 Outback Bowl

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota fans packed the stadium against the Auburn Tigers at this year’s Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla.

Brought the whole state with us.

As people traveled far and wide to attend the Outback Bowl, one plane filled with fans joined together to sing the Gophers fight song on their way to Florida.

Minnesota Gophers led at halftime 24-17 after an unreal one-handed catch from wide receiver Tyler Johnson.

Johnson’s catch led to another school record — making it his 32nd career receiving touchdown.

With 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter, Tyler Johnson ran a 73-yard touchdown leading the Gophers 31-24.

After a nail biting game, the fans went wild as the Gopher’s took a victorious win against the Tigers 31-24 to win the 2020 Outback Bowl.

minnesota.cbslocal.com

Gophers’ safety Antoine Winfield Jr. to the Vikings in the NFL Draft?

Hunter Johnson #15 of the Northwestern Wildcats is sacked by Antoine Winfield Jr. #11 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the first half at Ryan Field on November 23, 2019 in Evanston, Illinois. ( (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) )

MINNEAPOLIS — Welcome to the NFL off-season, where there seems to be a new mock draft every other day.

We won’t know what the Minnesota Vikings will do until April, but the latest name being thrown out there should sound very familiar to Minnesota football fans. According to the latest mock draft put out by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., the Vikings are slated to take University of Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield Jr. with the No. 25 pick in the first round.

Winfield finished the 2019 season a consensus All-American, the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year and a First Team All-Big ten pick as the Gophers won 11 games for the first time in 115 years. Winfield led the defense with 88 tackles, 66 solo tackles and three sacks. He also led the Big Ten with seven interceptions, which ranked in the top five in the country.

After the Gophers beat Auburn in the Outback Bowl, Winfield opted to forego his final two years of athletic eligibility and declared for the NFL Draft. His first two collegiate seasons ended early with injuries, but he made a splash this year when fully healthy for all 13 games.

If the Vikings do go with Winfield Jr., it could be a sign of what’s to come in free agency next month, with Anthony Harris, Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes all possibly exploring the market.

Winfield’s father, Antoine Winfield, spent nine of his 14 seasons with the Vikings and was a three-time Pro Bowl selection.

Todd McShay, ESPN’s other draft analyst, has the Vikings taking Iowa offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs with the No. 25 pick. CBS Sports has the Vikings taking Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs, the brother of current receiver Stefon Diggs, at No. 25, as does Sports Illustrated.

Stay tuned, we’ll see several more mock drafts before it all becomes reality in April.

www.fox9.com

Gophers women’s track team ranked ninth in the country

The Gophers women’s track and field team is No. 9 in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Association’s ratings this week while the men’s team is No. 19.

Ayesha Champagnie of Minnesota is ranked second nationally in the long jump and Devia Brown third in the shot put; on the men’s side Jonathan Tharaldsen is second in the shot put.

• The Gophers announced the signing of 17 women for cross-country and/or track, including six Minnesotans: Emma Atkinson , distance, Wayzata H.S.; Brianne Brewster , Lakeville South; Ava Hill , middle distance, Mesabi East; Claire Howell , sprints, Moorhead; Carley Kremer , middle distance, Rocori, and Liesl Paulsen , distance, Eden Prairie.

Top three unchanged

The top three teams remained the same in the USCHO.com’s college hockey rankings this week: 1. Cornell, 2. North Dakota, 3. Minnesota State Mankato. Ohio State, after being swept by the Gophers last weekend, tumbled from No. 6 to No. 11.

Gold for St. Cloud man

Mike Schultz of St. Cloud won the gold medal in adaptive snow bikecross at last weekend’s X Games in Aspen, Colo. The defending champion in the event, Schultz defeated Kevin Royston by 33 seconds to win his 10th X Games gold medal.

He also won gold in the unified snowboarding event, teaming with Special Olympian Daina Shilts of Neillsville, Wis.

www.startribune.com

Gophers receive commitment from 4-star Treyton Thompson

Perhaps lost in the shuffle of a wild weekend in Minnesota sports is the news that the Gophers received a commitment from a 4-star, homegrown basketball recruit.

Treyton Thompson, rated a 4-star player by 247 Sports, announced his intentions to play for the Gophers after he graduates high school in 2021. The 6’11» forward from Alexandria recently transferred to continue his schooling and basketball development at La Lumiere in LaPorte, Indiana, which is about an hour from Chicago.

Last year, La Lumiere finished No. 2 in the USA Today Super 25 poll after going 30-1. Their lone loss came in the national title game to No. 1 IMG Academy.

Thompson told 247 Sports that he’s always wanted to play for the Gophers and that the practice facilities and coaching staff also played a big role in his decision.

As a sophomore at Alexandria High School, Thompson averaged 15.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.

Prior to transferring, Thompson was the third-ranked player in Minnesota’s Class of 2021, trailing Kendall Brown, formerly of East Ridge, and Chet Holmgren of Minnehaha Academy. Brown is playing his junior season at Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas.

Holmgren is rated No. 2 in 247 Sports’ 2021 national rankings, with Brown coming in at No. 35 and Thompson ranked 76th. Holmgren and Brown have yet to verbally commit, but there’s a clear connection between the Gophers and Holmgren as David Holmgren, Chet’s father, played for the Gophers in the 1980s.

bringmethenews.com

Gophers football vs. Iowa: How to watch and who has the edge?

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When and where is the Gophers vs. Iowa game

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City

TV/Radio: KMSP-Channel 9, KFXN-FM 100.3

Records: The Gophers improved to 9-0 for the first time since 1904 with a convincing 31-26 win over then-No. 4 Penn State last Saturday. With a 6-0 mark in the Big Ten, Minnesota can clinch the Big Ten West if they beat Iowa (3-3) and Nebraska beats Wisconsin in an 11 a.m. kickoff. The Hawkeyes have lost three one-possession games to Top 20 teams this season: Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin.

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History: The Gophers have lost four straight rivalry games to the Hawkeyes since a 51-14 win at TCF Bank Stadium in 2014. Since 2000, Minnesota is 4-14 in the battle for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy. The U hasn’t won in Iowa City since 1999, when the Hawkeyes went 1-11 in Kirk Ferentz’s first season.

Key matchup: Gophers offensive tackles vs. Hawkeyes defensive ends. Minnesota left tackle Sam Schlueter was benched vs. Iowa last year but can redeem himself against A.J. Epenesa and Chauncey Golston. It will be a challenge for Schlueter and Daniel Faalele, but the Gophers were able to counter Penn State’s dangerous pass rush with QB Tanner Morgan getting the ball out early to receivers.

Who has the edge?

Gophers offense vs. Iowa defense: The Hawkeyes appears to be better than Penn State’s unit in one key area: against the pass. The Hawkeyes are 10th in the nation in passing yards allowed, with a rush defense that’s in the top 20 and a scoring defense that’s fourth (12 points per game). No Iowa defense has given up fewer points a game in head coach Kirk Ferentz’s tenure. The Gophers, meanwhile, have scored at least 28 points in all games for the first time in program history. Morgan has entered the fringes of the Heisman Trophy conversation after completing 90 percent of his passes for 339 yards and three touchdowns against Penn State. Rashod Bateman’s 203 receiving yards were the second-most in program history, while Tyler Johnson also eclipsed 100 yards. The Gophers’ three running backs were held to 3.7 yards per carry against Penn State and will likely have to fight for more tough yards against an Iowa defense led by free safety Jack Koerner and his team-high 50 tackles. EDGE: Iowa

Gophers defense vs. Iowa offense: The Hawkeyes have struggled to run the ball this season, ranking 95th in the country (139-yard average). No Iowa running back averages more than 37 yards in Big Ten games, while senior QB Nate Stanley has passed for only seven touchdowns and five interceptions in six conference games. A different Iowa receiver has the lead in each of the big three categories: receptions, yards and touchdowns. The Gophers’ defense is 13th in the nation with a plus-0.78 turnover margin, thanks, in part, to 14 interceptions. U free safety Antoine Winfield Jr. leads the way with seven picks and 57 tackles. Linebacker Kamal Martin is expected to make his return from a knee injury suffered three weeks ago; he had been Minnesota’s defensive MVP in the first half of the season. While Iowa leads the Big Ten in red zone scoring, coming away with points on 97 percent of drives, they are 79th in scoring touchdowns on fewer than 60 percent of their opportunities. The Hawkeyes have NFL prospects at tackle in Tristan Wirfs and Alaric Jackson, while U rush end Carter Coughlin leads Minnesota with 4½ sacks. EDGE: Gophers

Special teams: Hawkeyes kicker Keith Duncan has made 22 field goals to tie for the national lead. Gophers kicker Brock Walker filled in for Michael Lantz, who had leg tightness against Penn State. Walker went 4 for 4 on extra points and made a 26-yard field goal. This week, Walker moved to the top spot on the depth chart. EDGE: Iowa

Prediction: Despite a win over Penn State and climbing to the No. 8 in the College Football Playoff ranking, Minnesota is a three-point underdog to the No. 20 Hawkeyes. That, and the chance to take the pig out of Iowa for the first time in 20 years, will be more than enough to avoid any sort of hangover. Minnesota, 24-20

Andy Greder | Gophers football and Minnesota United beat writer

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Gophers softball: Bad snub by the NCAA, or one of worst snubs ever?

By: Michael Rand
May 15, 2017 — 10:38 AM

Whether you have been following Gophers softball for the entirety of their 54-3 season-to-date or if you’re just coming to this story now for the indignity of it all, know this: the NCAA’s decision to not give Minnesota one of the 16 seeds in the upcoming 64-team tournament — thus sending the Gophers, one of the best teams in the country, on the road to Alabama for the regional — is a snub.

There is no other way to describe how a team ranked No. 3 in the country, rated No. 7 just a week ago (before winning the Big Ten tournament) by the NCAA selection committee and slotted 11th in the RPI did not manage to land in the top 16.

What we can only hope to parse out now is whether this is just a garden variety “snub” that comes about every time teams are picked for a tournament or if this is, in fact, one of the worst snubs the NCAA has ever dished out.

Minnesota fans certainly know they would pick the latter. (More on that in a minute). But that’s not exactly an impartial crowd.

ESPN’s Graham Hays, who has no horse in this race, adds some good fuel to case for historic snub.

Tweeted Hays: “ In covering something like 40 brackets between sports, not sure I’ve ever seen worse committee blunder than unseeded Minnesota. Inexcusable.”

He also tweeted that from 2008-2016, every team ranked No. 3 was seeded in the top eight of the NCAA softball tournament. All but one team was seeded among the top four. For the Gophers to not even be in the top 16 is baffling.

The committee’s only ammunition for leaving Minnesota out of the seeding was the Gophers’ 2-2 record against teams in the RPI top 25 and the fact that the Gophers didn’t have a win against an RPI top 10 team.

BUT: the two top-25 losses came against Washington more than two months ago. The Gophers didn’t get to play Michigan — the other Big Ten team in the RPI top 25 — because that’s the way the schedule broke this season. Against the other Big Ten teams that made the NCAA tournament aside from Michigan — Wisconsin, Ohio State and Illinois — the Gophers went a combined 6-1. They also defeated NCAA tournament teams Texas (twice), LSU, California, Notre Dame (twice) and Oregon State during non-conference play. Every one of those teams, conference and non-conference, is in the RPI top 50.

What more does a team have to do?

Perhaps go undefeated — or would that have been enough?

@JoeCStrib @StribSports If they went undefeated would they have received a seed? I mean, is that what it takes? Unreal.

Relocating the entire school from the north to the south might help — all 13 SEC teams made the field of 64, by the way — but moving all of Minnesota to the south might be tricky.

@JoeCStrib Besides being in the south what more do you have to do?

At the end of the day, there’s no viable explanation except that the Gophers received what looks to be one of the worst snubs in NCAA tournament history. That’s no hyperbole. It’s reality.

@JoeCStrib @StribSports I’m no softball expert. What happened? This seems weird.

m.startribune.com

Outback Bowl victory over Auburn gives Gophers football team license to celebrate

TAMPA, FLA. – They didn’t want to leave the field. Not after a win that felt defining in nature and a season best described as special. So they lingered long after the game had ended to celebrate and enjoy one final moment together.

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Especially the seniors. They probably would have camped out all night at Raymond James Stadium if allowed. They have experienced so much turmoil and personal challenges the past five years that their elation was something to savor. As one of them noted afterward, “mission accomplished.” Indeed.

The perception of Gophers football changed in 2019. The first day of a new year validated the program’s rise to relevancy.

A commanding 31-24 win over Auburn in the Outback Bowl served as an exclamation point on an 11-win season and sent notice that P.J. Fleck’s program can compete with college football’s big boys.

“If you want to be a blue blood,” Fleck said, “you’ve got to beat blue bloods.”

The Gophers didn’t just beat the Tigers, they throttled them statistically and in coaching acumen, leaving no doubt which team was superior. The manner in which the Gophers took the fight to their opponent will reverberate nationally because Auburn’s résumé included a win over Alabama and a three-point loss at LSU, along with one of the nation’s stingiest defenses.

This win will get people’s attention. Eleven wins with a dominating performance against a highly regarded SEC team should remove any remaining skepticism about the Gophers’ soft schedule. They are legit, plain and simple. And they will begin next season as a Top 15 team.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can to make this a championship program,” Fleck said. “We want to change people’s thoughts, ideas and mindset. This is one game, one win. [But] it shows where we can go. It shows what we’re capable of doing, but it doesn’t guarantee anything. You have to go earn it every single day.”

They certainly earned it Wednesday as 6 ½-point underdogs. One play encapsulated their performance in both approach and execution.

Leading 31-24, the Gophers faced a fourth-and-1 at the Auburn 41 with less than four minutes remaining. It was the kind of critical decision that leaves coaches ripe for second-guessing. Fleck called timeout to consider his options.

He went for the jugular.

Fleck not only went for it, but he signed off on a pass play called by interim offensive coordinator Matt Simon.

Tanner Morgan faked a handoff and had a defender immediately in his face. But he managed to loft a pass to tight end Bryce Witham, who made a one-handed grab while pirouetting for an 11-yard gain.

Auburn never got the ball back as the Gophers milked the rest of the clock.

“We came here to win the football game,” Fleck said in a quiet moment outside the interview room. “That was the whole mindset. We got in the huddle and said, ‘Guys, we’re going to go win the game.’ That’s all they wanted. Players said let’s go win the game.”

Fleck rose to the moment. He coached aggressively, which is exactly what you hoped to see with everything at stake.

His players never flinched either. They responded like a mature, tough-minded group after mistakes or any time momentum felt like it could shift to Auburn’s favor. The Gophers seemed in complete control even with the score close.

They outgained Auburn 494 to 232 in total yards and won the time of possession statistic by 15 minutes, which is almost unfathomable. They battered the Tigers physically with a balanced offense and a swarming defense.

“They outplayed us and outcoached us,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “They deserved to win.”

When it was over, the Gophers gathered in the end zone to take pictures and celebrate with a large contingent of fans who made the trip south. A historic season ended on the highest note and nobody wanted to leave the party.

“This is just the beginning,” senior defensive end Carter Coughlin said. “The program is definitely on the up and up, but this was the catalyst. Minnesota is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the future.”

Building a program is a step-by-step proposition, but this season served as a gigantic leap. There is a new standard for Gophers football. People will look at them differently now. They earned this. All of it.

www.startribune.com

Time to move on from WCHA gripes, try to embrace Gophers hockey again

Penn State is coming to town for a men’s hockey series this weekend, which means it is time to relitigate (again) how the Nittany Lions ruined college hockey.

If Penn State hadn’t added men’s hockey – the announcement came way back in 2010, with Division I play beginning in 2012-13 – there wouldn’t be Big Ten hockey right now. That was the sixth team needed to form a conference, which happened in 2013-14, as every Gophers fan in the world knows.

That broke up the old WCHA, severed or weakened old rivalries, and put the Gophers into a death spiral from which they still haven’t recovered – as every Gophers fan in the world would contend.

Attendance has plummeted, and nothing will ever be the same again.

I’m tired of this narrative, even if I believe there are a lot of truths contained with in it. There has to be some sort of statute of limitations on these constant ruminations – a way to lament what was lost and why it was lost, sure, but also to maybe move on and try to embrace the future?

I’m trying to get there, trying harder than I probably have in the last five years when I’ve let bitterness and great memories from old WCHA rivalries – half of it as a kid growing up in Grand Forks, the other half living in Minneapolis – keep me from paying much attention at all to college hockey.

It’s easier to make Big Ten hockey a punchline when it produces just one NCAA tournament team (as it did in 2014-15, with the Gophers the sole representative making a quick exit). It’s easy to see an announced crowd of 2,000 for a Big Ten tournament game at Mariucci, er, 3M Arena at Mariucci (as happened just last season) and announce that college hockey here is on life support – killed by greed and watered down competition.

Penn State is the No. 8 team in the country in the latest poll. Notre Dame, which joined the Big Ten more recently, is No. 4. Ohio State is No. 11. Wisconsin, the Gophers’ lone counterpart in the WCHA-to-Big Ten move, is No. 15.

The conference is fine. It’s not the old WCHA, but guess what? The Gophers already played familiar old foes Colorado College and Minnesota-Duluth this season. There’s a home series with North Dakota on Nov. 28-29, leading right into Gophers/Badgers football on the 30th in what could be the greatest weekend ever. Minnesota State, St. Cloud State and Bemidji State are here for the Mariucci Classic in late December.

The schedule is better than fine.

Tuesday afternoon, I asked second-year Gophers coach Bob Motzko whether it’s time for fans to stop worrying about the “good old days” and embrace modern college (and Gophers) hockey.

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Motzko played at St. Cloud State, was an assistant for two Gophers NCAA title teams, was St. Cloud State’s head coach during college hockey’s realignment and is now here, presiding over a young and rebuilding team that is not ranked in the top 20 – making him overqualified, perhaps, to answer that question.

“Our fans are awfully smart hockey people,” he said. “They want to see us competing hard and of course they want to see us win. Our guys want to win. We have to continue to get better and move forward as a hockey program right now.”

He circled back on the point later in his media session.

“We totally understand ‘the old’ (days),” Motzko said. “Gopher hockey is 4-4-2. We had leads in two of those four losses, where we really point to some youth and it would look a whole lot different if it weren’t, but that’s what it is. I have to completely guard our team against social media or what the media might be saying because they have great attitudes and we are getting better. Nineteen freshmen and sophomores, I can’t ask for anything more right now. … Is it going to be smooth sailing the rest of the way? Not a chance. But we’re going to keep our foot on the pedal. There are brighter days ahead, I can tell you that. We have to fight to get through the clouds to find them.”

Indeed, winning would cure a lot of ills. Since reaching the NCAA title game in 2013-14, the first year of the Big Ten, Minnesota has made the tournament just twice in five seasons (and been one-and-done both times).

Motzko is playing the long game, and if you listen to his players there might be some parallels between what he’s building and what P.J. Fleck has done with the football program – just on a different timeline and with different expectations based on past success in the last half-century.

“Coach Bob is changing the culture with hockey,” said goalie Jack LaFontaine.

As for Penn State?

“Huge. For me, it’s really huge. I think it was my sophomore season that they beat us four in a row to boot us out of (NCAA contention),” said Ryan Zuhlsdorf, a senior defenseman from Edina, about the budding rivalry. “Whenever we go into their building it’s always a hostile environment. They have a couple guys on their team that play with a chip on their shoulder. I like to think I play with a chip on my shoulder. Whenever we meet, it’s a good battle and I enjoy it.”

The past is an awfully big place to live. Maybe it helps to think about the Nittany Lions as a new rival instead of the program that ruined everything.

Motzko, for one, is inclined to look in the mirror and see optimism. As he walked out of his media session, he seemed to be thinking about the past and the future.

“We’ll get back to the old days someday,” he called out.

www.startribune.com

Latest loss may signal end to Gophers’ realistic NCAA basketball tournament hopes

The Barn was quieter than it should have been on Wednesday night. It was quiet before the Gophers played Indiana in something close to a must-win game, and grew quieter in the last two minutes, as some fans began filing out into the bitter cold.

The Gophers would falter in virtually every aspect of the game and lose 68-56 to a Hoosiers team that had only one previous road victory in the Big Ten, at Nebraska. When time expired, after the Gophers went the final 2:15 without scoring a point, you could hear boos in the upper deck.

The Gophers made just 16% of their three-point shots and 52.6% of their free throws, missed a fast-break layup, struggled to create room in their half-court offense and made the game too easy for Indiana freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis, who finished with 27 points and 16 rebounds.

They are in the midst of what feels like a decisive collapse, losing three straight and five of their past six while often looking fatigued and disjointed.

The Indiana loss may end any reasonable hope of an NCAA tournament bid. Will it prove as decisive for coach Richard Pitino’s Minnesota career?

Pitino is coming off a season in which he made the tourney and beat a talented Louisville team. He has made the tourney two of the past three seasons.

Pitino’s agent could make the case that another injury to Eric Curry left his team without the frontcourt depth it so desperately needs. That would be a logical argument. But these kinds of decisions can be based as much on fan enthusiasm as fact.

The Gophers playing at home against Indiana with a tourney bid in the balance should generate some excitement. Having a hometown guy like Daniel Oturu establishing himself as one of the best players in the country should generate enthusiasm.

Instead, we’re watching a Gophers team trend from pretty good to pretty awful in short order, while Oturu looks like he’s being asked to carry too much of the load.

Oturu is the rare current Gopher who sometimes looks like he’s enjoying himself. He waved to fans and friends during warmups and danced after the anthem. He even helped staffers wipe the floor during a timeout.

He has been the only efficient offensive player on a bad offensive team, but on Wednesday he went 5-for-15 from the field, sometimes looking like his shots were more a function of hope than determination.

This team may not be able to give it to him, although Isaiah Ihnen should be playing alongside him in the starting lineup, providing shot-blocking and three-point shooting to a team that lacks both.

“Obviously, that’s a blow,’’ Pitino said of the loss. “There’s no way around it. We’ve got five games left. I always thought you had to win five of the [remaining] seven. You’ve dug yourself a hole. Any time you lose at home in this league, it’s a problem.

Cold shooting, lethargic finish doom Gophers in loss to Indiana

“Clearly, we’re frustrated, but the beauty of basketball is you can always rebound.’’

Pitino is signed through 2024, but his buyout is just $2 million. That’s a pittance if athletic director Mark Coyle decides he can do for the basketball program what he did for the football program by hiring P.J. Fleck.

When Fleck arrived, Pitino graciously welcomed him and has continued to praise him.

But Fleck might be the worst thing that has happened to Pitino: an adjacent example of what program-building can look like.

The Gophers are 6-9 in the Big Ten. Their remaining games: at Northwestern, home against Maryland, at Wisconsin and Indiana and home against Nebraska. If they win four of five, including an upset of Maryland, they could make the tourney, but does a team this worn down and torn down capable of that?

Indiana coach Archie Miller said his team, at its worst, is like a car on a wet road. The Gophers program suddenly appears to be skidding on black ice.

Jim Souhan is a sports columnist for the Star Tribune. He has worked at the paper since 1990, previously covering the Twins and Vikings.

www.startribune.com

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