ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) – With the team coming into the weekend ranked in the top 10 in the country, expectations for the Minnesota Gophers have been high.
For many of the fans, their love of the team started back in the 60’s when Minnesota last won a conference title.
“Tom Sakal who was captain of the Gopher football team that year was my roommate,” said University of Minnesota graduate Milt Tostrud.
“I’ve been fan since I was 6 years old,” said longtime Gophers fan Charles Lamb. “My dad knew Murray Warmath so I used to go to the practices and sell papers during the 60’s at the games.”
Minnesota has seen some up and downs, so what do the fans consider the program’s biggest wins?
“When we beat Michigan 16 to nothing. When we beat Penn State when they were number one,” Lamb said. “The biggest one since then would have to be last week when we beat Penn State.”
Saturday’s game was against rival Iowa, but many do not consider them their biggest rival.
“For me it’s Wisconsin because I have cousins in Wisconsin,” Tostrud said. “I’m tired of their razzing. I didn’t get any this year.”
Despite losing Saturday, the Gophers have a shot to make the Big 10 conference title game. So what’s been the key to success?
“Coach Fleck. He’s done a great job recruiting. He’s full of energy,” said Tostrud. “The team has bought into his program. That’s the dominating force as far as I’m concerned.”
Fans also say that TCF Bank Stadium has provided an electric atmosphere for the team.
“Sitting there and watching the stadium get full and it was like ‘oh my word, this is really special’. We haven’t had that,” said former Rochester mayor and U of M fan Ardell Brede.
Minnesota still has a lot to play for this season, including a first Rose Bowl appearance since 1962.
“And my wife and I will be going,” said Tostrud, who has been to all this season’s home games and the road trip to Fresno State.
While fans remain loyal through winning and losing, they have enjoyed watching the Gophers surpass expectations.
“It’s been fascinating. What a great season,” Brede said. “You know obviously victory is special but it’s a great university and the new stadium that they got, you can’t beat it. Ski-U-Mah.”
No doubt about it, it has been a special season for Gophers fans.