Gophers, PJ Fleck prepare to see familiar faces against Colorado Saturday

PJ Fleck and the University of Minnesota football team held a team meeting on Sunday, about 12 hours after the Gophers cruised to a 62-10 win over Western Illinois to get off to a 2-0 start.

They celebrated Saturday night. Sunday, they got back to work and in the words of Fleck, they talked about "things we didn’t do culturally in the game." There wasn’t much to nitpick, after the Gophers piled up 679 yards, eight touchdowns and the starting defense didn’t allow a touchdown for the second straight week.

What Fleck did do, however, was point to other programs around the country who slipped up. Iowa lost at home to Iowa State. Wisconsin lost at home to Washington State. Northwestern lost to Duke, Nebraska lost a stunner to Georgia Southern, Texas lost to Alabama and Texas A&M lost to Appalachian State. That’s while the Gophers, for a second straight week, dominated an inferior opponent.

"We won a football game, that’s great, but now it’s time to put our leather vests on and watch how we can grow," Fleck said. "We watched all the things culturally that, with all due respect, we play somebody better and we’re not going to get away with those things. One of the jobs as a head football coach is to make sure your team learns as much as they can the easy way."


In a crazy Saturday of college football, the biggest surprise might have come in Lincoln, Neb. The Cornhuskers lost 38-35 to Georgia Southern, a team the Gophers had to rally to beat in 2019. Nebraska fell to 1-2 on the season.

Sunday morning, Scott Frost was fired as head coach after four-plus seasons. He won just 16 games, never got Nebraska to a bowl game and was 5-22 in one-score games.

"I’ve got a lot of respect for Nebraska’s program, I’ve got a lot of respect for Scott. It’s part of our profession, it’s unfortunate, but it’s part of our profession," Fleck said. "It’s just a profession that we’re in. Wish him all the best moving forward."

In early speculation of who will replace Frost at Nebraska, Fleck’s name emerged as a candidate by national college football reporter Pete Thamel. Last November, Fleck signed a seven-year, $35 million contract to stay at Minnesota through the 2028 season. If he were to leave before Jan. 1, the buyout is $10 million. He’s not going anywhere.

"Our focus is going 1-0 in the Colorado season," Fleck said.


The Gophers wrap up non-conference play against Colorado on Saturday at Huntington Bank Stadium, which means Fleck will see at least three familiar faces. Rod Chance, who coached defensive backs for Fleck, is now with the Buffaloes in the same role. Tight ends coach Clay Patterson is also at Buffalo in the same role, and is the passing game coordinator.

As is Mike Sanford Jr., who is now the offensive coordinator at Colorado after Fleck parted ways with him following the 2021 season. Last year, the Gophers went to Boulder and pounded the Buffaloes 30-0. Colorado comes to Minneapolis 0-2 after a 41-10 loss to Air Force last week. The Buffaloes managed just 162 total yards, and just 51 passing.

"Mike, Clay and Rod have done a lot for our program, I’ve got a lot of respect for all three of those men. You stay in this profession long enough, you’re always going to go against people that worked with you," Fleck said. "Every game is its own entity, every year is its own entity. It’s a one game championship season."

The Gophers and Colorado kickoff at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Huntington Bank Stadium. Minnesota learned Monday it will open Big Ten play at Michigan State in two weeks, also a 2:30 p.m. kickoff.