Friday, September 30, 2011

Who Are You and Why Do We Care?: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Now that we are in Big 10 play, is there a rivalry here?
This will be the 97th meeting overall, 92nd for the Little Brown Jug, between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Michigan Wolverines. The "rivalry" between the two teams is much more based on history than on recent competition. Since Bo took over as Michigan's head coach in 1969, Michigan has only lost three times, in 1977, 1986, and 2005.

When did we see them last?
The last time we played Minnesota was in the horrendous season of 2008. The lone bright spot in Big 10 play was the game against the Gophers. Michigan won 29-6 behind the foot of K.C. Lopata, a touchdown from Nick Sheridan to Greg Mathews, and a 3 yard touchdown run by (my high school football teammate) Mark Moundros. What I would give for a kicker like Lopata now who could kick a perfect 5/5 from 44, 34, 26, 48, and 23 in one game. Nick Sheridan was your only Quarterback (Threet was injured), and he didn't throw the game away, although I'm sure there were plenty of hitches 5 yards over Greg Matthews head and screens 5 yards in front of Odoms and McGuffie. Zoltan even got to run the ball on a fake punt! Toney Clemons, Sam McGuffie, Justin Feagin, Boubacar Cissoko all played roles in the victory.

What happened in 2005?!
With just seconds left in the game, Minnesota Kicker, Jason Giannini kicked a 30-yard field goal to put the Golden Gophers up 23-20. After two kicks from Garrett Rivas, a touchdown run by Mike Hart, and a 95 yard kick return touchdown, Michigan was up 20-13 with 12:25 left in the 3rd Quarter. Lawrence Maroney ran for a touchdown in the third quarter, and no one scored until Giannini's kick to end the game. This was not for lack of trying, in a very Brendan Gibbons fashion, Garrett Rivas missed two field goals that could have given Michigan the lead in the fourth quarter. Needless to say, this was a huge victory for Minnesota, and their first in 16 tries.

Lloyd Carr said he wanted to see how the Wolverines would respond to this loss, and respond they did. Michigan went on to beat Penn State, Iowa, Northwestern, and Indiana to push the record from 3-3 to 7-3.

What do they look like?
The Golden Gophers official colors are Maroon and Gold. I've always been a fan of both Minnesota's color scheme and their logo. As you can see, they have multiple combinations of uniforms. I'm not a fan of the monotone maroon on maroon, but the maroon on gold is not bad at all. I stripe on the jersey is pretty unnecessary, and a classic example of Nike trying to make jerseys more exciting. We will probably see something like this on Saturday. The biggest issue with the Gophers uniforms is when they break out the gold on gold, which ALWAYS looks terrible.

What's their coaching situation?
In the past off-season, Minnesota fired Tim Brewster, and hired Jerry Kill. Kill has been a head coach for a very long time, working his way up from the Saginaw Valley State Cardinals to the Emporia State Hornets to the Southern Illinois Salukis, finally he broke into Division 1-A with the Northern Illinois Huskies, before getting the promotion to the Big Ten with Minnesota.  In 2008, Kill took a Huskies roster that went 2-10 in 2007, and lead them to 6-7 including a bowl appearance in the Independence Bowl. In 2009, the Huskies improved to 7-6 with an appearance in the International Bowl. Finally, in 2010, Kill lead Northern Illinois to a 10-3 record. They were undefeated in MAC play until the MAC Championship Game, which they lost to Miami (NTM). Early in the season, Kill's Huskies beat the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Minneapolis, 34-23. Before Kill could coach the Huskies in the 2010 Humanitarian Bowl, Kill was offered the Minnesota job, and he resigned.

Sadly, Kill may not coach the Gophers tomorrow, as he suffered another seizure. Hopefully, this is a problem that can be solved, and Kill can continue not only being a successful football coach, but having a successful life as well.

Have they won National or Big Ten Championships?
The most recent Big Ten Championship for the Golden Gophers was in 1967, under coach Murray Warmath. Warmath also won a National Championship 7 years earlier in 1960. Minnesota also enjoyed two dynasties in the very early history of college football. Henry L. Williams and the Gophers won Big Ten Championships in 1900, 1903, 1904, 1906, 1909, 19010, 1911, and 1915. The Gophers' second dynasty was in the 1930s under Bernie Bierman. They were National Champions in 1934, 1935, 1936, 1940, and 1941.

Did anyone famous play there?
Depends what you consider famous...

  • Marion Barber and Laurence Maroney - Combined were one of the best 1-2 punches at running back. Separated, they have been average professionals. 
  • Tony Dungy - Played his college ball at Minnesota, and went on to coach the Tampa Bay Bucs and Indianapolis Colts, whom he lead to a win in Super Bowl XLI. 
  • Verne Gagne -American Wrestling Association World Heavyweight Champion and WWE Hall of Famer. 
  • Otherwise, they have had 215 players in the NFL and 6 NFL Hall of Famers. 
Do they have a goofy mascot?
We No Speak Americano gets me every time. 

Anything you could ever want to know about "Goldy the Gopher" is right here and here.

I would not give justice to any explanation of the Little Brown Jug, so read these articles instead: Mike Rothstein posted a nice article over at WolverineNation, and MVictors, as always, has great history of the oldest rivalry trophy. After putting up a fight against USC in week 1, Minnesota has lost to both New Mexico State and North Dakota State, while beating Miami (Still NTM). Prediction based on everything, but football: Michigan 35 - Minnesota 7. 

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