Gophers out to end skid against Hawkeyes in last game of season
By Dave Campbell, AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS -- Adam Weber and Jon Hoese have become close friends over their careers at Minnesota, marked more by frustration and heartbreak than big wins and bowl games.
These seniors, though, won't let all those losses cloud their feelings about the college football experience. Time in the locker room with their teammates. Playing in storied stadiums in front of thousands of fans. Singing the school fight song, the Minnesota Rouser, after a victory.
"I will leave here with a smile on my face," said Weber, who has started all 49 games of his career and is the all-time Minnesota leader in several statistical categories for quarterbacks.
Weber's roommate, Hoese, is going out with the same attitude, despite a season that went sour after an inspired opening win on the road at Middle Tennessee in which Hoese honored the sudden death of his father by scoring three touchdowns.
"Adversity will hit you at any time, and the minute you think you have things figured out you have a curveball thrown at you," Hoese said. "You've just got to take a step back, realize what's going on and try to keep moving forward with it."
Hoese added: "It's unfortunate that we didn't have a better season, but being optimistic about it you have to make the most of every opportunity. That goes farther than football too."
The Gophers (2-9, 1-6 Big Ten), after rallying to beat Illinois two weeks for their first November conference win since 2006, can finish this rough season strong with a win over 24th-ranked Iowa (7-4, 4-3) at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday.
The rival Hawkeyes have owned the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy, a bronze pig played for between these border-state schools since 1935, for eight of the last nine years.
"To make it a rivalry, we need to win more," Gophers interim head coach Jeff Horton said.
Minnesota has fierce rivalries with Iowa and Wisconsin, and also plays for trophies with Michigan and Penn State. This outgoing group of seniors hasn't beaten any of those teams. The win at the Metrodome over Iowa in 2006 was the last time the Gophers won one.
The Gophers, in fact, haven't even scored against the Hawkeyes in three years. They lost 55-0 in 2008 and 12-0 in 2009.
Horton, who took over last month when Tim Brewster was fired, is preparing for the end. The new coach will almost certainly bring in an entirely new staff. Horton was relaxed as ever at his news conference this week, firing off all kinds of gallows-humor one-liners as he talked about the finality of what has been a tumultuous 2010 season for the maroon and gold.
Particularly the players.
"We'll be here each and every day for 'em, until the one day when you come in and you put the key in and that baby won't turn," Horton said.
He added: "Let's build it for the next guy and have the players going into the right direction so everybody goes into the recruiting in the offseason in a positive way."
The Hawkeyes have fallen out of the Big Ten title and BCS chases after three losses -- to Wisconsin, at Northwestern and to Ohio State -- by four points or fewer. But there's still a chance to play in a New Year's Day bowl game.