Minnesota's De'Vondre Campbell can't help but think about TCU rematch

MINNEAPOLIS -- As a team, Minnesota is keeping its focus on itself.

Individually, though, De'Vondre Campbell just can’t help himself from looking ahead and popping in the tape of a game that is still bugging him even during spring camp.

It doesn’t hurt that the Gophers linebacker can also use the film of the loss to TCU last season as prep for a rematch in the season opener in the fall. But given some disappointment in the way he played, the year the Horned Frogs would go on to have and Campbell’s personal opinion of how they stacked up with Big Ten foe and eventual national champion Ohio State, scouting is certainly not the only motivation for his repeated viewings.

"It’s never too early to get ahead," Campbell said Tuesday morning. "But of all the games we played, that one is one that bothered me -- especially later in the season once I saw what they were accomplishing. Because I felt like this was a really good team, but we could have competed with them a lot better.

"I’m not taking anything away from them. I’ll still stick with my opinion that I think that was the best team we played last year."

Strong words, considering that schedule also included the Buckeyes. Though the circumstances between the two matchups hardly could have been any different, the 31-24 loss to the eventual champs compared to the blowout at the hands of the Horned Frogs has certainly stuck with Campbell into spring camp.

From start to finish, Campbell has watched the 30-7 loss to TCU "three or four times" on his own, using that bonus work on his free time to focus on what he could have done to potentially make a bigger impact in what was essentially the only lopsided loss the Gophers were handed all season.

Collectively, Minnesota actually held the high-powered Horned Frogs to their lowest point total of the season. And individually, Campbell chipped in 6 tackles and recovered a fumble.

But neither of those things have provided much comfort for a program still looking to break through with a victory that resonates nationally, even though it’s stock-piling rivalry trophies and establishing itself as a contender in the Big Ten West Division. And it’s no secret that a chance to claim that kind of signature win is waiting for the Gophers on Sept. 3 when the Horned Frogs pay a visit, with the chance to claim a little revenge only adding to Campbell’s early sense of urgency.

"Looking back at that game, if you watched it, you see that they always had a short field," Campbell said. “I think their longest drive of the game was [51 yards], and they might have got a field goal. But other than that, they were always on our side of the field.

"We do have a really good team, and I feel like we don’t get enough credit as a team because of Minnesota’s recent history of not having those good teams. I honestly feel like we can compete with anybody if given the opportunity. ... I honestly think that beating a team like TCU would definitely open a lot of eyes."

Midway through spring camp, the Gophers might not be game-ready quite yet. But the preparations are already starting for Campbell, one film viewing at a time.