The shoulder pads were extra-wide, the jerseys were see-through mesh, and the offenses were wishbone — all things that screamed 1980s.
Thirty-seven years ago, the Gophers hit the road to take on second-ranked Michigan in the penultimate week of college football's regular season. Minnesota was a 25½-point underdog to the Wolverines, who were 9-0 and in the thick of the national championship chase.
Instead of Michigan getting a tune-up for a showdown against Ohio State, it was the Gophers in 1986 who emerged with a 20-17 upset win capped by Chip Lohmiller's 30-yard field goal as time expired. That secured possession of the Little Brown Jug for the visitors in front of 104,864 stunned fans in Michigan Stadium.
Saturday night at Huntington Bank Stadium, the Gophers and Michigan will meet for the 105th time, and the circumstances are coincidentally similar to that mid-November day. For the first time since 1986, the Wolverines are No. 2 in the Associated Press Top 25 at the moment they play the Gophers. And they're 20-point favorites to keep the coveted jug.
"We're gonna need some karma," Rickey Foggie, the quarterback who led the upset, said this week.
One more coincidence: The quarterback for Michigan in 1986 was Jim Harbaugh, who now coaches the Wolverines.
For the current Gophers to match their predecessors' accomplishment will take their best effort possible and likely some miscues by Michigan. It's a long shot, for sure, but that was the case in 1986, too.
Banking on the wishbone
There wasn't a lot to suggest the Gophers would pull off a historic upset in 1986. They hadn't beaten the Wolverines since 1977 and entered the game with a 5-4 record. John Gutekunst was in his first full season as coach after Lou Holtz left for Notre Dame, and the Gophers lost 63-0 at No. 1 Oklahoma in the season's second game, then fell to lowly Pacific.
Foggie, though, was confident because in their last visit to Michigan in 1984, the Gophers rushed for 217 yards and played the Wolverines close for three quarters before losing 31-7.
"We ran the option," Foggie said, "and defenses were having problems stopping the option."
That proved to be the case in 1986 because Foggie was one of the best option quarterbacks in the country and would be a 15-year pro in the Canadian and Arena leagues. He also had a 1,240-yard rusher in freshman Darrell Thompson, plus key backfield contributors in Kevin Wilson and Ed Penn.
Thompson, the Gophers' second-leading career rusher and an analyst on the team's radio broadcasts, burst on the scene with a 205-yard rushing day in his first college game. He was wowed by the atmosphere and the hard hitting in the Big House.
"The year before, I was playing against my crosstown high school rival," the Rochester John Marshall graduate said. "All of a sudden, you're playing against Ohio State and Michigan. I was like, 'Oh, this is great,' but then it was, 'Oh my God, it's like they're bringing baseball bats.'"
A big third quarter and Pee-wee Herman
The Gophers got their first break of the game in the second quarter, when Michigan's Tony Gant fumbled Brent Herbel's punt and Terry Stewart recovered at the Wolverines 14. Minnesota cashed that in for a 7-0 lead on Foggie's 15-yard touchdown pass to Mel Anderson.
While Michigan took a 10-7 lead by halftime, the Gophers' opportunistic ways led to a productive third quarter.
Defensive back Matt Martinez intercepted a pass by Harbaugh and set up the Gophers at the Michigan 36. Foggie then showed off his wishbone skills, running left, stringing out the defense and finding a seam between two Michigan players for a 5-yard touchdown run and 14-10 lead.
After entering the end zone, Foggie celebrated in a unique way. "I did the Pee-wee Herman dance,'' he said, laughing. Was it a spur-of-the-moment idea? "We were on national TV," he said. "That was planned."
Minnesota's defense forced another turnover when linebacker Larry Joyner popped the ball loose from Jamie Morris. Cornerback Carlos McGee recovered at the Wolverines 26, and Lohmiller's 25-yard field goal made it 17-10.
"That's the name of the game, creating those turnovers and capitalizing on them,'' said Lohmiller, who won a Super Bowl with Washington and is chief of the Crosslake Fire Department. "The defense played a fantastic game."
The Gophers held their seven-point lead for most of the fourth quarter, but Michigan tied it 17-17 on Gerald White's 1-yard TD run on fourth down with 2:26 left. Still, legendary coach Bo Schembechler had an uneasy feeling.
"I never felt good about the game, even when we drove in and tied it up," Schembechler said after the game. "… We were really fortunate to be at 17-all."
He was right.
On the final drive, Thompson, who separated a shoulder earlier in the game, converted third-down situations with tough runs of 14 and 5 yards, setting up the Gophers at the Michigan 48.
"I got hurt pretty bad," Thompson said. "It think it was Mel Anderson who said, 'Hey, we need you.' … [Trainers] rubbed some stuff on me, put a neck collar on me. I just went out there and tried to protect myself."
Those two runs set up the biggest play of the game.
"Coach Gutekunst wanted to know: What did I want to call?" Foggie said. "I was like, 'Are you serious? I want a sprint-out. Give me the option to run and throw.' And if anybody knew me as a quarterback, they knew I was going to run first."
Run he did, first rolling to the left and faking a pass to draw the Michigan defense. Foggie found a seam in the middle, cut across the field, got a big block from Anderson and ran out of bounds at the 17 for a 31-yard gain with 20 seconds left.
The Gophers ran one more play with Thompson centering the ball between the hash marks at the 14 with 3 seconds left. Before the play, he received instructions from senior offensive tackle Norries Wilson. "He said, 'Don't be trying something exciting,'" Thompson said.
Lohmiller supplied the excitement, splitting the uprights from 30 yards for the 20-17 win.
"Chip was money," Foggie said. "We knew he had it."
After the kick, the celebration began as the Gophers seized the jug. Lohmiller noticed something else.
"They had 100,000 people there, and they were going crazy earlier," Lohmiller said. "And I made the kick, and it was just dead silence. All you could hear was our band in the corner and our teammates all excited. It was crazy. It was awesome."