Delirious and delighted fans packed the bars and eateries of Dinkytown and other University of Minnesota neighborhoods Saturday evening to toast the Gophers football team’s sensational win over Penn State at TCF Bank Stadium.
The celebration began the moment the 31-26 victory ended as thousands of fans clad in maroon and gold spilled — and tumbled, in some cases — out onto the field.
So heavy and intense was the rush that more than a dozen minor injuries were reported, including four that sent people to the hospital.
From the second level of TCF Bank Stadium, the fans started to shift before the game was even over.
“It was just a tidal wave going in one direction,” said Ian Macpherson, 25, a U graduate student. “You were either going with it or getting bowled over.”
“It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime things,” Macpherson said after rushing the field and thanking the players. “TCF has never seen a game like that. Going forward now, this is going to be the expectation.”
Outside the stadium, fans filled Dinkytown and Stadium Village bars and restaurants long after the game. “Ski-U-Mah, row the boat!” called out one man as he walked into a liquor store as rain fell.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Steve Henry, 52, of Eden Prairie, who didn’t even try to get tickets to the game with his wife, instead opting to watch on TV from Stub and Herbs just to be near the stadium.
As a longtime Minnesotan (and University of Minnesota Duluth graduate), he’s been a Gophers fan since 1974, but said he was surprised by Saturday’s win.
“For a Minnesotan, we have a negative attitude about our teams. Nothing compares to what we have seen today,” he said. “It’s been 60 years, and we beat a team that was better than us.”
Lizabeth Converse, 59, of Minneapolis, a 1985 U graduate, didn’t regret her season tickets in the front of the stadium until fans started rushing the field at the end of the game.
“It was wild,” she said. “Nobody expected us to win. We’re going to the playoffs!”
Nearby, Penn State fans Ken Schafer, 65, of Phoenix, and Dave Herrman, 64, of Pittsburgh, sat at the bar, taking the loss in stride.
“We’re hurting a little bit, but it was a good game,” Schafer said. “We were a little overrated.”
Herrman said he wasn’t surprised by his team’s loss and enjoyed watching the raucous Gophers fans celebrate.
“We will be rooting for the Gophers” the rest of the season, he said.
Meanwhile, euphoric congratulations poured in for the team on social media. “The entire state of Minnesota is so proud of the heart that the Gophers showed,” Gov. Tim Walz tweeted. “The heart of champions. Row the boat from Warroad to Winona!”
The excitement is likely to build even higher this week. The Gophers will kick off against the University of Iowa Hawkeyes in Iowa City at 3 p.m. Saturday.