Gophers with 'nothing to lose' vs. PSU

Why should Penn State be a little leery of Saturday's game against a 1-6 Minnesota team that just fired its head coach?

Allow Minnesota interim coach Jeff Horton to answer that question.

"We've really got nothing to lose," Horton said. "We can try anything. If if works, it works. If it doesn't, who cares?"

Minnesota finds itself in a unique position, and the results could go one of two ways.

A Gophers team that has played hard but executed poorly could fall apart at the seams and implode in the final five games, especially under a group of assistants who might all be gone in 2011. But it's also possible for Minnesota to play better in a no-pressure situation. Prideful seniors like Adam Weber -- who, quite frankly, has gotten a raw deal in his college career -- want to finish strong, and underclassmen want to distinguish themselves for the next coaching staff.

"Usually in a coaching transition, you've got one [game] left, maybe two," Horton said. "But I think the kids have responded to that. The best thing we can do is go out as coaches and be professional. There's obviously uncertainty on the coaching staff with what will happen next year, but we owe it to the kids on the team to do our job and prepare them and give them every chance for success and a win.

"I told the kids, 'We just went past the halfway point. We've got five great games [left], three of them are against top 10 teams. That's a great opportunity for us."

One factor that should help Minnesota more on Saturday is its home field. There were plenty of boos during Minnesota's five consecutive home losses earlier this year, but most were directed at Tim Brewster and the coaches.

In announcing Brewster's firing Sunday, athletic director Joel Maturi implored Minnesota fans: "Don't boo our kids."

"I think it’ll be electric," Horton said. "I think the people in the stadium, the students, the fans, they’ll really rally around the football team in a time of adversity. And I think our kids will really feed off that energy."