Bowl game or bust? Gophs believe they’ll get there

Published 8:54am Friday, August 17, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS — Maybe this is the year. For historically struggling teams like Minnesota, the start of the season always brings the confidence that comes with a spotless record, strong chemistry and perceived improvement.

After finally surrounding themselves with some calm and continuity, the sounds of optimism from the Gophers are louder than usual.

“Minnesota is different this year. It’s a new mindset. Different players. New jerseys. Everything about Minnesota is getting better and evolving,” sophomore 0wide receiver Marcus Jones said. “It’s just time for the program and the team to start winning games. That’s what I believe is going to happen. That’s what we believe as a team is going to happen.”

After consecutive 3-9 seasons, the first marked by the firing of Tim Brewster and the second by Jerry Kill’s seizures, the Gophers have their sights set on a bowl game. Any bowl game. Because that would be a lot better than what they’ve been the last two years.

“It’s not, ‘Can we do it?’ anymore. It’s, ‘We will do it,”’ Jones said. “So we feel if we don’t get to it, we let ourselves down. We let Minnesota down.”

Stiffer competition for starting spots is usually a sign that a team is getting better. The entire roster was divided into different mini-teams during the winter strength and conditioning session, and points were awarded for accomplishments in the weight room and subtracted for no-nos like missing a class or arriving late to a meeting.