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Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Season wrap: Minnesota

By Chantel Jennings

The Gophers rallied behind coach Jerry Kill, who took a leave of absence to focus on his epilepsy treatment, and turned their season around, finishing the year 8-5.

The season might have ended with a disappointing loss to Syracuse in the Texas Bowl, but the crowning achievement was a 4-4 record in Big Ten play. It’s far from where the Gophers want to be as a team, but it’s the best conference record in Kill’s tenure and the Gophers managed wins at Northwestern and over a ranked Nebraska squad. Their four wins in 2013 matched the total number of Big Ten wins under Kill during the 2011 and 2012 seasons combined.

Offensive MVP: Junior running back David Cobb. He led Minnesota with 1,202 rushing yards, becoming the first 1,000-yard rusher for the Gophers since 2006. He accounted for seven touchdowns and six 100-yard games, including five conference games with 100 yards (the first Minnesota running back to do so since Marion Barber III had five in 2003). Cobb was also third on the team in receptions (17) for 174 yards.

Defensive MVP: Senior defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman. He led the team with 13 tackles for a loss and was a force demanding double-teams on the defensive line all season for the Gophers. He registered two sacks, one interception, eight pass breakups, two blocked kicks and 38 tackles during his final season for the Gophers.

Best moment: The Gophers’ 34-23 win over No. 24 Nebraska. It was Minnesota’s first win over the Cornhuskers since the 1960 season, and Nebraska had dominated the series, taking care of Minnesota by an average score of 40-9 over their previous 16 meetings. It marked a huge momentum swing for the Gophers, who would go on to win their next two conference games. It was also the Gophers’ sixth win of the season, making them bowl eligible. “The way Coach Kill runs his programs, we knew that we were going to have success, and it was just a matter of time before we really started rolling,” quarterback Philip Nelson said after the game.

Worst moment: Minnesota’s 20-7 loss to No. 19 Wisconsin. The Gophers were riding a four-game win streak with a ton of momentum, but the loss to their rival was a brutal reality check that they’re still far from where they want to be. Offensively, the Gophers struggled, and Minnesota's only score came on an interception return. Defensively, Minnesota allowed the Badgers to rack up 324 yards of total offense.