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Progress Made

“I hope to see just one thing out of the 2018 season. I am hopeful for progress. Nothing more and nothing less, just progress.” These are my words from late August of 2018. The Gopher football team was undefeated, well 1-0, but undefeated sounds a lot better than 1-0, after beating lowly New Mexico State by a final score of 48 to 10. All though not much could be learned from routing a bad opponent that went on to go just 3-9 in the 2018 season, there was reason to believe the Gopher football team was on the right path towards progress under second year coach, PJ Fleck. Fast forward almost 4 months and a bowl game victory, fellow Gopher fans can be pleased with the progress made in 2018 and dare I say, even a little excited about the future?

Was it all great this year? Absolutely not. I do believe even the most ardent Gopher football supporters would admit that if they are being honest. Being largely non-competitive on the road against Nebraska, Maryland and the Illini come to mind. Never really having much of a shot to beat Iowa at home was also disheartening. However, the firing of Robb Smith as Defensive Coordinator after the horrible loss on the road to Illinois obviously changed things. From there on, the Gophers would go onto win 3 of their final 4 games, including a 34 to 10 win over Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl. Not only would the Gophers win 3 of 4 games to close out the 2018 season, they would dominate in those 3 wins. Winning by a combined score of 112 to 35. New Defensive Coordinator, Joe Rossi appears to have found something that works on defense. For the better part of the season, the offense was also functional to very good. Primarily in the running game where they showed their true depth at the position. Largely thanks to Quick Lane Bowl MVP, Mohamed Ibrahim. And let’s not forget, the Gophers used two quarterbacks to help notch their 7 wins. In today’s college game, it seems likely that both Tanner Morgan and Zack Annexstad will have a say in the future of the Gopher football program at some point.

Progress was made in 2018, no doubt. The next step is taking the progress gained in 2018 and move it even farther forward in 2019. I’m a huge believer in evaluating seasons in their entirety, not as they are currently playing out. Blanketly assigning win totals has always seemed rather foolish to me. But logically, if 7 wins was the total in 2018, could the Gophers dare to win 8 or 9 next year? With another solid recruiting class on the way, anything is possible. It won’t be easy though, when expectations are raised, and you become better, other teams take note, the target on your back gets bigger and the Gophers non-conference schedule next year is a little tricky… I’m looking at you Fresno State.

Anybody who follows the Gopher football program wants success badly. Especially those of you that have waited over five decades to see it on a high level once again. Was 2018 the year to help turn the tide and bring Gopher football back into national prominence? I’m not going to say that. I’m honestly not sure. Nobody knows or can say that. But here’s to hoping for more progress, and more fun in 2019 for the Golden Gopher football program! Row the boat. Ski-U-Mah. And, go Gophers!

 Cheers, and best wishes in 2019!


Ross Brendel can be followed on Twitter @brendelross.