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Gophers embrace weekly 'championship' philosophy

"Every week is its own championship," said Gophers starting quarterback Tanner Morgan, referencing one of coach P.J. Fleck's credos.
Credit: AP Photo/Stacy Bengs
Minnesota football players hold up the Governor's Victory Bell after winning 31-26 against Penn State during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

MINNEAPOLIS — It's been a mantra Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck has used all season.

Whether it's a nonconference game against Georgia Southern or a Big Ten tilt against a top-10 team, the message remains the same.

"Every week is its own championship," said Gophers starting quarterback Tanner Morgan.

It's a philosophy Fleck adopted from his time on Jim Tressel's coaching staff at Ohio State and he's brought it to the Twin Cities.

"When you're at Ohio State, and you're not perfect — at least when we were there, if you weren't perfect, it was 'Ah, 11-1. Boo.'" Fleck said. "That was my first coaching job ... I had just come from (playing wide receiver) for the (San Francisco) 49ers, and now I'm coming into a national championship program.

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"To watch (Tressel) handle every single week, with the expectation and the pressure upon Ohio State. It was my first coaching job and it was one of the most influential (coaching jobs) because of what I learned in how to prepare a football team."

Fleck has been preparing this team for a long time. It started well before the Gophers cracked the top 10 in the national rankings. It came before Minnesota stunned Penn State 31-26 at TCF Bank Stadium. In fact, it goes back to before Minnesota shocked Wisconsin last year at Camp Randall.

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It's been a culture Fleck has been building since his first day on campus, and now, it's beginning to manifest.

"It's something we've totally bought into," said Morgan, who recently garnered his second Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honor. "It's a mindset ... our team has really adopted it and taken it with us this entire season."

The Gophers (9-0) are off to their best start since 1904 and control their own destiny in the Big Ten West. They've won 11 straight games dating back to last season, including seven straight against conference opponents.

"Coach Fleck and Minnesota are one of the best story lines of the season to date," said Gary Stokan, CEO and president of Peach Bowl, Inc., in a press release. "His players have clearly bought into his coaching philosophy after a 9-0 start to the season. We look forward to continuing to see the Gophers row the boat with a possible appearance in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl."

But before the Gophers start looking ahead to the College Football Playoff semifinals or national championship, there's a different championship they're focused on.

"We're focused on going 1-0 in the Iowa championship season," Morgan said. "We're really excited to be able to play at (Iowa's home field) Kinnick (Stadium) and to just play against a really elite opponent."

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