Gophers Thursday night football opener vs. Nebraska: ‘Gold Out, Sold Out’

College football is back. The University of Minnesota football team opens the 2023 regular season Thursday night against Nebraska at Huntington Bank Stadium, a game you can watch on FOX 9.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. as P.J. Fleck opens his seventh season with the Gophers, and there won’t be an empty seat at the stadium. School officials announced late last week the game is sold out. It’s also a "Gold Out" at Huntington Bank Stadium, meaning all Minnesota fans attending should wear gold apparel.

Last year, the Gophers held a "Stripe Out" where fans either wore maroon or gold depending on their seat assignment. In 2019, they had a "Maroon Out" for the historic win over Penn State. Thursday will be Minnesota’s first sellout since the 2021 season opener against Ohio State. Huntington Bank Stadium has a capacity of 50,805.

"I think it just shows where we’re headed and where we’ve come as a program. There were times I was told when I first got here you’ll never sell that place out. I took that as a personal challenge by who was telling me that and how often I was told that. You take that as a challenge because that’s the job of a coach. You want to step in and take it to a different level, or you wouldn’t take that job," Fleck said last Friday. "That was a big key for me was to get this community, whether they like football or don’t like football, whether they were fans of the Gophers or not fans of the Gophers, whether they went to Minnesota or didn’t go to Minnesota, whether they live in Minnesota or don’t live in Minnesota, to love our culture and love our program. Love how we play, what we stand for, support our team."

There have been two other capacity crowds in Fleck’s tenure at Minnesota, both in 2019. There were 51,833 fans in attendance for the win over Penn State, and 53,756 at the loss to Wisconsin to end the regular season with ESPN’s College GameDay in attendance.


It’s a new era for the Gophers’ offense as they’ll have a new quarterback for the first time in five years. Tanner Morgan is gone, and redshirt sophomore Athan Kaliakmanis is expected to get the start Thursday.

We got a glimpse of him last year, throwing for 946 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions in five starts and 11 games. He had arguably his breakout game against Wisconsin, going 19-of-29 for 319 yards and two touchdowns. That said, Fleck cautions not to expect the Gophers to be pass-heavy out of the gate.

Only the service academies ran the ball more than the Gophers last year. Even in 2019, with Morgan having a historic season with the help of All-Big Ten receivers Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman, Minnesota threw the ball 38 percent of the time. This year, it’ll be running back by committee with Sean Tyler, Darius Taylor, Zach Evans and Bryce Williams to go with a loaded receiving corps that features Daniel Jackson, Chris Autman-Bell, LeMeke Brockington, Elijah Spencer, Corey Crooms and Brevyn Spann-Ford.

"We still have our same philosophical beliefs, and that will never change. I believe in how you win football games, you’ve got to be able to control the ball, you’ve got to take care of the football, you still have to be able to run the football. You’ve got to play great defense, you’ve got to be able to win situational football. Those are things we hit home constantly," Fleck said. "It’s the execution of the offense and the efficiency of the offense. That’s what we want to be able to see with what we do and how we do it. It’s different people with different strengths, but that doesn’t mean the system changes."

Fleck is 44-27 in six seasons at Minnesota, 26-26 in the Big Ten and 4-0 in bowl games.