MINNEAPOLIS – Walking down Oak Street through the University of Minnesota’s “Dinkytown” area of restaurants, bars and frat houses, there was a buzz going hours before the Golden Gophers hosted No. 2 TCU. Maroon and gold is everywhere, tailgate lots are filling up and there is genuine excitement for the season opener, which is not always the case for a program that has been largely irrelevant for most of the last 50 years.

Minnesota coach Jerry Kill and TCU coach Gary Patterson are longtime friends, and both have said they were reluctant to schedule this game. Both believe in stacking their nonconference schedules with cupcake and patsies to gear up for the rigorous seasons that await them in the Big Ten and Big 12.

But seeing the atmosphere surrounding TCF Bank Stadium on Thursday night for such a highly anticipated game, it just makes you wish more coaches and programs would be on board with scheduling meaty opponents early in the nonconference season.

The fans want it. Television certainly wants it. Even the players want it.

The Gophers’ home opener last season was against Eastern Illinois and thousands of seats were empty. The student section was nearly full more than an hour before kickoff against the Horned Frogs.

“Guys on our team were ticked because they wanted to be the ones playing one of the best teams in the country,” Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner said. “Now this year we have the opportunity.”

The standing-room-only crowd at Minnesota has plenty of incentive to stick around for the second half against second-ranked TCU. Even the top rows of the upper deck in the student sections have stayed full of maroon and gold, a rare sight.

The attendance was announced at 54,187, well over the official capacity of 52,525.

The Frogs led the Gophers 10-3 at halftime.