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On Sept. 7, 2019, P.J. Fleck sure was happy that Chris Autman-Bell wore a size 12 rather than a 13.

If the wide receiver's toes were a little longer, maybe his left foot wouldn't have landed in bounds in the left corner of the end zone. The spectacular catch of a Tanner Morgan pass gave the Gophers the tying touchdown on a fourth-and-13 play in the final minute of regulation in what turned out to be a 38-35 double-overtime win at Fresno State.

On Aug. 31, 2023, Fleck, the Gophers coach, sure was happy that Daniel Jackson wore a size 12 cleat rather than an 11.

If the wide receiver's toes were a little shorter, maybe his left foot wouldn't have touched the turf in the left side of the end zone before his right foot landed out of bounds. That would have negated a jaw-dropping fourth-and-10 touchdown catch on a pass from Athan Kaliakmanis to tie the score with 2:32 left in the fourth quarter in what became a 13-10 win over Nebraska.

A poster of Autman-Bell's catch hangs on a wall in Fleck's office. The coach promised an image of Jackson's heroics will join it.

"That's a catch that goes on the wall forever,'' Fleck said. "… That's a catch you'll never forget.''

Jackson said he had "no doubt'' he would make the catch — a play in which he pulled off a ballet-like leap to hang just long enough for his left toe to kick up rubber pellets and send the sold-out crowd into a frenzy. Kaliakmanis concurred, saying, "We trust Daniel with the ball in his hands, and you know he's going to make that play.''

Gophers safety Tyler Nubin was amazed by the highlight but not stunned by who authored it.

"I saw the replay, and it was ridiculous,'' Nubin said. "And the thing is, though, it didn't really surprise anybody because that's what he does every day.''

In 2019, Autman-Bell's catch was one of the keys to a season that will go down as one of the Gophers' best in the past 60 years. An 11-2 record. A share of the Big Ten West title. A stirring home win over Penn State. An Outback Bowl triumph over Auburn. And a No. 10 finish in both of the major polls.

Can Jackson's catch be a springboard to similar success in 2023? It's way too early to project that. A running game that produced only 55 yards against the Huskers shows there's much for the Gophers to improve, especially considering the challenging schedule that awaits.

However, the win over Nebraska was important because the Gophers could ill-afford an early Big Ten loss in their quest to win that elusive West Division title. With Michigan and Ohio State still on the schedule, plus West contests against contenders Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, stacking up league wins, no matter how accomplished, comes first.

"Remember, this is Game One,'' Fleck said. "You know me; I want to be way better by the end of this thing. And we've got a lot of getting better to do.''

The Nebraska game marked the debut of Greg Harbaugh Jr. as co-offensive coordinator alongside Matt Simon, the wide receivers coach. When Kirk Ciarrocca, the OC and quarterbacks coach, left for Rutgers after the 2022 season, Fleck promoted Harbaugh to those roles but held off through spring practice and training camp to say who would call the plays. After the game, Fleck revealed his secret: Harbaugh is calling the plays.

"He did a really good job tonight,'' Fleck said. "That's a very, very difficult defense with the preparation we were given. I gave him a lot of credit because he stayed poised.''

The same can be said for Jackson, whose fancy footwork produced a highlight he'll always remember and one that he's quick to share with his teammates, including Autman-Bell.

"I'm happy I could do it for my brothers and that I could come through when my name is called,'' he said. "It feels really good knowing we executed and finished the game strong.''