The Gophers and Badgers have played a lot of crucial football games over the years, just like this Saturday’s meeting where the winner will go to the Big Ten title game.
The teams met in 1962 when Murray Warmath had one of his best teams, and the Gophers were headed for the Rose Bowl – at least until they lost to Wisconsin 14-9 in Madison. There were two crucial 15-yard penalties on the Gophers in that game – one on Bobby Bell for roughing the passer, and the other on Warmath. The Badgers, ranked No. 3 at the time, went to the Rose Bowl ahead of the Gophers, who were ranked No. 5.
Bell was called for roughing Wisconsin quarterback Ron VanderKelen on a play late in the game, with the Gophers leading 9-7. Bell hit VanderKelen to cause a fumble, which the Gophers recovered in midair. The referees penalized Bell for some unexplainable reason, and Warmath protested the call and got another penalty, giving the Badgers the ball on the Gophers’ 13. The Badgers scored with two minutes left in the game for the victory.
Then you have probably the biggest upset by the Gophers in the series when they beat Wisconsin in Madison 17-14 in 1984, when Lou Holtz was coaching the Gophers. The Badgers that year had three first-round draft choices in wide receiver Al Toon, defensive end Daryl Sims and cornerback Richard Johnson, and a second rounder in lineman Scott Bergold. In all, they had 11 players who would be taken in the 1985 NFL Draft – and 14 others who would drafted over the next three years.
During a practice the week before the game, Holtz called me to the middle of the field and said, “I’m going to give you a little scoop, just between us. Minnesota is going to beat Wisconsin, and Doug Mueller, one of our defensive tackles, is going to make 12 or 13 tackles.”
Well, the Gophers went into Madison and beat that good Wisconsin team. Mueller, a freshman, made 12 tackles and was instrumental to that victory.