Andy Greder / St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS — The Gophers and quarterback commitment Brennan Armstrong have officially parted ways. Now the Gophers must fill that crucial role with just a month remaining until the early signing period. "After a long process and tons of emotions, my family, coaches and I have decided it is in my best interest to de-commit from the University of Minnesota," Armstrong wrote in a tweet Monday morning. "With that being said, I will now be committing to The University of Virginia to further my education and athletic career! I will be shutting down my recruitment."
EVANSTON, Ill. — Minnesota quarterback Demry Croft completed his first two passes on the opening drive Saturday, Nov. 18. He then connected on zero over the next 11 series during a 39-0 blowout loss to Northwestern at Ryan Field. Croft had three interceptions and was the victim of an estimated six dropped passes, including one by receiver Phillip Howard on the goal line which ended in a Wildcats pick and maintained the Gophers' first shutout in 31 games since October 2015.
EVANSTON, Ill. — The Gophers' best Big Ten road record has been accumulated at Northwestern, but Ryan Field has been a house of horrid play for the Minnesota football team in their two previous visits. In October 2015, the Gophers suffered their last shutout, 27-0, amid a 5-7 season. On Saturday, Nov. 18, Minnesota was marred by turnovers and plummeted in a 39-0 loss to the No. 23 Wildcats, falling to 5-6 with a rivalry game remaining against undefeated and fifth-ranked Wisconsin next Saturday, Sept. 25.
MINNEAPOLIS — After pacing the streets of Dinkytown, Payton Jordahl had built the courage to approach the homeless man on the sidewalk. "I was scared," the Gophers long snapper said. "My heart was racing. I could have walked up to a kid that looks just like me — blue jeans, decent pair of sneakers and regular jacket and a backpack. That's safe. But I wanted to challenge myself and talk to someone that society would label as dangerous."
MINNEAPOLIS — At 6-foot-10, Gophers tight end Nate Wozniak is the tallest skill position player in college football, and although he grew up in basketball-centric Indiana, playing hoops wasn't really for him. Wozniak gave up basketball after his junior year at Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Ind. Why? "Because I love to hit people, man, that's why," Wozniak said Tuesday, Nov. 14. "I was too physical to play basketball. I always fouled out."
MINNEAPOLIS — By virtue of their 54-21 blowout win over Nebraska on Saturday, the Gophers improved to 5-5 and are firmly on the college football bowl bubble. Well, as firmly as a thin layer of soap holding air can be while traveling through the atmosphere. A week after a 33-10 shellacking by Michigan, and Gophers coach P.J. Fleck saying afterward his team was far from a worthy bowl team, Minnesota's beatdown of the Cornhuskers improves its stake. Some bowl projections now have them in; others are still keeping them out.
MINNEAPOLIS—When DJ Kool’s “Let Me Clear My Throat” blasted on speakers throughout TCF Bank Stadium at the end of Saturday’s third quarter, Gophers fans danced freely. “Now, if y’all wanna party like we do …” Not since nonconference play in September had Minnesota opened up a big lead to allow fans to revel a bit.
MINNEAPOLIS — If the Gophers beat Nebraska on Saturday, Nov. 11, and lose as expected underdogs to Northwestern and Wisconsin in the final two games, Minnesota will finish 5-7 this season. The last time they finished a touch under .500 was 2015, when the NCAA didn't have enough eligible programs at six wins to fill its 40 bowls. So, the Gophers went to the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit based on their strong Academic Progress Rate (APR). Will a similar scenario play out for the Gophers this season?
MINNEAPOLIS — One coach's message has stuck with P.J. Fleck since he played receiver at Northern Illinois: "My job is to out-recruit you." "You're a player at the time, you're catching passes, you think you're invincible," the Gophers head coach recalled Tuesday, Nov. 7. "... I said, 'What do you mean?' " "He said, 'Your job is to keep your job. Your job is to play so well I can't replace you. But my job is to always find somebody better than you.' "
MINNEAPOLIS — Blake Cashman is a 6-foot-2, 230-pound, speedy, sure-tackling member of the Gophers' kick and punt coverage units. On defense, the former walk-on is an athletic linebacker with a knack for blitzing, primarily on third downs. As the Eden Prairie, Minn., native continues to carve out a unique niche during his junior season, coach P.J. Fleck envisions future Minnesota teams brimming with Cashmans. "If we had 125 Blake Cashmans, that's the goal," Fleck said Tuesday, Nov. 7. "Now — different positions. (But) I'm saying the heart, the spirit, the fire."