History lesson: Gophers football and the pursuit of four straight Big Ten wins

  • Article by: BRIAN STENSAAS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 8, 2013 - 12:51 PM

FILE - Nov. 1, 2008. Northwestern safety Brendan Smith crossed into the end zone with the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter after intercepting a pass intended for Gophers receiver Eric Decker, bottom right.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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The Gophers on Saturday have the chance to win four straight Big Ten football games for the first time since 1973.

That's when Cal Stoll’s team shook off a 34-7 home loss to No. 4 Michigan and defeated Northwestern, Purdue, Illinois and Wisconsin to round out a 7-4 season back when seven victories didn't get you into a bowl game.

Since, 11 different Gophers teams have won three straight only to lose game No. 4. Here's a look at those failed attempts:

1980 (coach Joe Salem)

Won: vs. Iowa, at Illinois, vs. Indiana

No. 4: Lost 30-12 vs. Michigan State

The skinny: The Spartans scored 13 points in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach, including field goals of 41 and 30 yards by Morten Anderson.

1985 (Lou Holtz)

Won: vs. Purdue, at Northwestern, at Indiana

No. 4: Lost 23-19 vs. No. 9 Ohio State

The Skinny: Rickey Foggie’s 1-yard plunge midway through the third quarter gave the Gophers a 19-10 lead but the Buckeyes answered with two quick scores in the fourth.

1986 (John Gutekunst)

Won: at Purdue, vs. Northwestern, vs. Indiana

No. 4: Lost 33-0 at Ohio State

The skinny: Cris Carter (five catches, 127 yards and 2 TDs) and the Buckeyes used the victory as a springboard to the following week, when they upset No. 1 Iowa 22-13.

1990 (Gutekunst)

Won: at Purdue, vs. Northwestern, vs. Indiana

No. 4: Lost 52-23 at Ohio State

The skinny: The Buckeyes raced out to a 28-3 lead before the Gophers knew what hit them and Minnesota failed in a game of catch-up. The teams combined for 918 yards of offense.

1993 (Jim Wacker)

Won: vs. Purdue, at Northwestern, vs. No. 15 Wisconsin

No. 4: Lost 23-20 at Illinois

The skinny: The Illini rallied from a 20-9 fourth quarter deficit, scoring the winning touchdown with 12 seconds remaining. It was Illinois’ fourth straight in the Big Ten, but the Illini would not win again that season.

1999 (Glen Mason)

Won: at No. 2 Penn State, vs. Indiana, at Iowa

No. 4: Lost 38-24 at Purdue*

The skinny: Drew Brees passed for 409 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 88 yards adding another TD for the eventual Big Ten co-champion Boilermakers, who went on to lose in the Rose Bowl.

2000 (Mason)

Won: vs. No. 22 Illinois, vs. Penn State, at No. 6 Ohio State

No. 4: Lost 51-43 at Indiana

The skinny: In a classic shootout, the Hoosiers’ Antwaan Randle El ran for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown runs two minutes apart to put Indiana ahead for good. Randle El finished with a career-high 473 yards of total offense.

2002 (Mason)

Won: vs. Illinois, vs. Northwestern, at Michigan State

No. 4: Lost 34-3 at No. 6 Ohio State

The skinny: Minnesota took a 3-0 lead at the Horseshoe, and then proceeded to get rolled by the Buckeyes despite Maurice Clarett sidelined with a shoulder stinger. He would rebound to score the game-winning TD in the national championship game vs. Miami.

2003 (Mason)

Won: at Illinois, vs. Indiana, vs. Wisconsin

No. 4: Lost 40-22 at No. 20 Iowa

The skinny: In a forgettable game, Iowa led 40-6 before Thomas Tapeh cashed in on a pair of meaningless touchdowns late. The Gophers scored on only three of its six trips inside the red zone.

2006 (Mason)

Won: vs. Indiana, at Michigan State, vs. Iowa

No. 4: Lost 45-31 vs. Purdue*^

The skinny: In the Gophers first conference game following the Insight Bowl meltdown, Desmond Tardy returned the opening kick 95 yards for a Boilermakers touchdown at the Metrodome. Purdue allowed Minnesota 469 yards of offense but the Gophers fumbled three times.

2008 (Tim Brewster)

Won: vs. Indiana, at Illinois, at Purdue

No. 4: Lost 24-17 vs. Northwestern

The skinny: A Homecoming nightmare. Tie game, 17-17, and the Gophers driving. Out of a timeout, Adam Weber was picked off by Brendan Smith, who returned it 48 yards for the winning score with just 12 seconds left to stun the crowd of 54,000.


* First Big Ten game of following season
^ Coached by Tim Brewster

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Gophers Football Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pmX34-24
Jan 1 - vs. Missouri noon




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