Plenty of Minnesota sports anniversaries and years are embedded in our collective sports minds. Merely mention 1987, 1991 or 1998, for example, and the Twins’ two World Series titles plus the Vikings’ 15-1 season spring immediately to mind. But what about some lesser-known anniversaries? We’re here to take a look back at some of those, in increments of five years, dating backward from 2013.
Today: The 1973 Gophers football team and five things you might have forgotten about that season.
• The Gophers in 1973 finished 7-4 overall and 6-2 in the Big Ten. Minnesota has not equaled that conference mark in any season since then. They have gone 5-3 numerous times, most recently 2003 under Glen Mason, but they have not gone 6-2 since that season 40 years ago.
• The Gophers were most certainly a running team. Their leading rusher that season, according to Gophersports.com, was Rick Upchurch, who averaged nearly 6 yards per carry (141 rushes for 841 yards). He was one of four players to top at least 400 yards on the ground. Conversely, their leading receiver was tight end Keith Fahnhorst, who had a rather unspectacular 10 catches for 102 yards.
• The head coach? Cal Stoll, who was in his second season after taking over for Murry Warmath. Stoll departed after seven seasons with what at the time looked like a pedestrian 39-39 career record. Joe Salem, Lou Holtz, John Gutekunst, Jim Wacker, Glen Mason, Tim Brewster and Jerry Kill have followed. Only one of them — Mason — has a career record above .500 at Minnesota.
• The Gophers’ losses were to Kansas and Nebraska (nonconference) as well as Ohio State and Michigan, who tied atop the Big Ten at 7-0-1. Minnesota also won six of its final seven games. Despite that robust record, the Gophers did NOT go to a bowl game. Lest we forget, that was the era before there were approximately 92.3 billion bowl games. In fact, there were only 11 of them.
• In a bit of serendipity, a highlight video of the 1973 season recently was posted on the school’s athletics website, Gophersports.com. There is footage that should make you nostalgic for the football played 40 years ago.