The Gophers decided it was time to turn the kid loose. The top recruit in Minnesota last year, Philip Nelson got the starting nod at quarterback in one of the toughest spots to play in the Big 10. The no-longer red shirt freshman held his own in front of more than 80,000 Badger fans throwing for 149 yards and a pair of touchdowns and also rushing 16 times for 68 yards in the Gophers loss.
"I learned a lot, but the main thing I learned is it is just another football game," said Nelson. "I got the irony behind it, but once I got out there you completely forget about it and just play football."
Nelson's father Pat grew up in Wisconsin and was a fullback for the Badgers in the late 1970's. Growing up, Nelson spent several game days at Camp Randall watching the team as a fan. Now he takes over a team that he will lead for the next four years.
"The goal is still the same," said Nelson. "We want to get to a bowl game. We want to win out. We want to treat every game like it's the biggest game there is."
Nelson, who starred at Mankato West throwing for 7,564 yards and 94 touchdowns in his high school career with the Scarlets.
"It's really exciting to think about the future but we really want to win right now too," said Nelson. "We're really close to being a really good team."
Nelson's first college touchdown came on the drive immediately following a Badger touchdown. On second down, Nelson connected with Brandon Green from 16 yards for the score. His second came later to A.J. Barker. Were there mistakes? Sure, but Nelson never looked rattled in his debut and as head coach Jerry Kill continues to build his program the right way, the quarterback position is set for the next four years.
"If you took the advantage of what Philip has, the knack he has, when we recruited him, he can get the ball out in a hurry, so fast we didn't have a receiver turned," said Kill. "He gets the ball out, which is important."