MINNEAPOLIS — Bud Grant may be best known as coach of the Minnesota Vikings, but he was Gopher too -- a four-year starter -- from 1946 to 1949. And he's been waiting to see a season like this year's.

"It's been a long time since we've had something to crow about," Grant said. "They started out a little slow by winning some close ballgames, but they have progressed as the year's gone on, and as a coach or a fan you like to see that.  You don't want to see a stagnant team. This team has gotten better as the year has gone on."

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Rickey Foggie was another four-year starter for the Gophers, from 1984 to 1987, who has continued to follow the team through some pretty lean years.

"The one thing I am glad about, is the wait is over," Foggie said. "That's the exciting part, to be able to witness this, because you know we've been waiting a long time."

This year's team mirrors Foggie's team in many ways -- a losing program turned around by an inspiring head coach -- Lou Holtz for Foggie and PJ Fleck for the current team.

But as good as Fleck is, Foggie and Grant both believe the caliber of players is the difference-maker.

"You've got to have the players. I don't care how good you are as a coach," Foggie said.

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"Remember, the coaches don't win football games. Coaches can promote. They can recruit. But the players, you've got to get the best players," Grant said.

To make the Big 10 Championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl, the Gophers need to beat Wisconsin on Saturday. 

Foggie and Grant both beat the Badgers four times, although the college football atmosphere was a little different in Bud's day.

"The tough part of that was, it was always the first day of deer season," Grant laughed. "That was almost as important as the game at that time."