No moral victories, but Minnesota should be optimistic about its future

Dr. Saturday

Minnesota might have lost the Meineke Car Care Bowl 34-31 to Texas Tech, but in no way should the Golden Gophers be disappointed with their effort.

No one thought Jerry Kill’s team could hang with Texas Tech and the nation’s No. 2 offense. But not only did it hang, it nearly pulled off a monumental upset. If not for an interception by freshman quarterback Philip Nelson with 43 seconds remaining to ultimately set up the game-winning field goal, the Golden Gophers, who were 13-point underdogs, would have probably taken the game to overtime.

And then, who knows?

This was by far the best game Minnesota played in its final five contests – including a 17-3 win against Illinois – and should give the Gophers optimism heading into 2013.

Yes, there are no moral victories and yes, Minnesota will still finish the season with a losing record, but they didn’t get blown out. Everyone thought Texas Tech would run away with this game and the Minnesota defense kept the Red Raiders at bay the best it could while the defense scored more than 30 points for only the third time this season.

Nelson will be kicking himself about that interception, but it’s a good learning experience for the future of the Minnesota football team. He can use this game as motivation as he leads the Gophers in 2013.

Minnesota has at least 16 starters coming back next season, the majority of the offense and a slew of other players who have contributed this season. This game will only make that group a better team.

As for the game itself, it saved a fairly lackluster day of football and made us all thankfully forget the horrors of the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Texas Tech has some issues – particularly with penalties and tempers – that new coach Kliff Kingsbury will have to iron out, but this is a team that can make some noise in the Big 12 next year. It does have to tighten up on defense. Minnesota’s running game shredded the Tech defensive line all game, which is part of the reason why the game ended up being so close.

We can all only hope that the rest of the bowl season follows this entertaining trend and stay clear of games like the Russell Athletic Bowl.

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