The Gophers football team hasn’t won at home against Michigan in 40 years, and they have beaten them only four times in either Minneapolis or Ann Arbor in the past 50 years.
Minnesota had an outstanding shot of beating the Wolverines in 2015 at TCF Bank Stadium, when Michigan was ranked 15th in the country. They trailed 29-26 but had first-and-goal at the 1-yard line with 19 seconds left.
They decided against kicking a tying field goal and twice tried for an upset-clinching touchdown, but a pass to the flat fell incomplete and a quarterback sneak by Mitch Leidner failed and the Wolverines escaped with a victory.
Linebacker Ben Gedeon, the Vikings’ fourth-round draft pick this season, was on that Michigan squad.
“Great game, defensive battle all game, kind of back and forth,” he said. “It was a night game there, so the crowd noise was wild. The goal-line stand was awesome, probably one of the best games I’ve ever been a part of.”
Gedeon, a junior that season, said he was injured late in that game and had to watch the big stop from the sidelines.
“[I made] a couple of tackles,” he said. “I think I actually got hurt at the end of the game, so I was out for the goal-line stand, which I was pretty upset about, but it was a great game.”
Gedeon said that victory was a big turning point in Michigan’s season, which would end with a 41-7 victory over No. 19 Florida in the Citrus Bowl.
Now Gedeon is challenging to make the Vikings roster after a great training camp and a great first preseason performance against Buffalo with six tackles, five of them solo.
Gedeon graduated with a degree in economics and is a Hudson, Ohio, native. He talked about how he ended up playing for a heated rival of his home state.
“I was always a Big Ten fan and I watched Michigan my whole life,” he said. “Coach [Brady] Hoke recruited me and I kind of just fell in love with the academics and tradition.”
Gedeon was ranked the 17th-best linebacker in the country coming out of high school, and he got offers from most major Big Ten schools.
He ended up a four-year letterman at Michigan, with 176 tackles and 6½ sacks.
He also has a connection with Pat Elflein, who played on the offensive line at Ohio State and was drafted in the third round by the Vikings this year. Gedeon said Elflein went to high school with his college roommate, Michigan tight end Jake Butt.
What does he remember about the Wolverines-Buckeyes games he played in?
“A couple tough losses against Ohio State in my time at Michigan,” he said. “But always good games. … It’s the greatest rivalry in sports. It was just fun to be a part of that.”
Gedeon was one of an incredible 11 Wolverines selected in this year’s NFL draft.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “It’s a credit to coach Hoke, who recruited all of us, and coach [Jim] Harbaugh, who came in [in 2015] and developed us really well there at the end.”
Gedeon’s family has a long football history. His brother, Alex, played at Harvard and another brother, Sam, played at Navy.
“A good amount of teams [were looking at me before the draft],” he said. “Made a couple of visits to the Lions and went to the combine and the Senior Bowl, so I was able to talk to a lot of teams at those events.”
When the Vikings picked him, it was a great thrill.
“I was just really excited,” Gedeon said. “To be around my family when that happened was just an honor [when I got] that call. I’m so happy to be here. … There’s a couple [linebacker] openings and I’m just excited to be here and compete.”
Fleck on Douglas
One of the biggest early recruiting successes for new Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck was Demetrius Douglas, the wide receiver out of Portland (Jesuit), Ore.
Douglas was being recruited by the likes of Oregon, Notre Dame, Boise State and Stanford when Fleck and his staff got involved.
Douglas’ father, Omar, played for the Gophers in the early 1990s and finished his college career with 130 receptions for 1,681 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Fleck talked about the recruitment of Demetrius Douglas, who changed his commitment from Oregon to Minnesota on Jan. 14.
“We only had about 2½ weeks to recruit when we got here, in terms of full recruiting, and I did not know Omar or Demetrius, so when we got involved in that mix, it was a battle with Oregon and we ended up winning that battle and I got a chance to meet Omar,” Fleck said.
Fleck said Demetrius has stood out as one of the Gophers’ best players during training camp.
“He might be one of, if not the best receiver, we have on the roster,” Fleck said. “I think fans are really going to be excited into the future. I never really call [out] our freshman like that, but he is way, way more mature beyond his years right now. This young man can play, he’s smooth, he’s athletic, he’s fast, he catches the ball really well, incredible leader. … You talk about a guy not missing a beat playing every position now, it looks like he has been here for years.”
• Much as he did during his tenure with the Vikings, running back Adrian Peterson is not playing in preseason games with the New Orleans Saints. Peter King of Sports Illustrated talked about how the Saints studied Peterson’s speed when deciding whether to sign him. “That is one of the things the New Orleans Saints saw when they looked for what Adrian Peterson has left,” King said.
• Former Vikings receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, now with the Raiders, had two receptions for 22 yards in Oakland’s 20-10 preseason opener loss against Arizona, but surprisingly, didn’t return any kicks.
• Former Twins catcher Drew Butera is having a career year for the Royals. The career .207 hitter, is hitting .268 with three home runs, 13 RBI and 16 runs scored. He hit a two-run homer Tuesday night in a 10-8 loss at Oakland.
• Lefthander Jaime Garcia has made three starts for the Yankees after being traded from the Twins on July 30, posting a 6.32 ERA with 11 earned runs in 15⅔ innings. … Closer Brandon Kintzler (traded by the Twins on July 31), however, is off to a great start with the Nationals, posting a 2-0 record and a 1.13 ERA over eight innings, with six strikeouts and three holds. … The word out of Seattle is the Mariners, who are in the AL wild-card chase with the Twins, are trying to acquire Twins All-Star righthander Ervin Santana.