College football was a far different world in 1967. There were the four traditional New Year's bowls with the Rose, Sugar, Orange and Cotton, and only four others with the Gator, Sun, Liberty and Bluebonnet.
Oddly, there were 10 teams in the Big Ten, and they were eligible only to play in the Rose Bowl. There was also a no-repeat rule in effect for teams representing the Big Ten in Pasadena from 1963 to 1972.
From 1960 to '62, the Gophers were 17-4 in the Big Ten, 22-6-1 overall (including 1-1 in Rose Bowls) and were voted as 1960 national champions.
The following four seasons for coach Murray Warmath resulted in a 17-19-2 record. This started a steady decline in attendance, leading to crowds in the low 40,000s at Memorial Stadium for nonconference victories over Utah and SMU in 1967.
The Gophers opened Big Ten play that season with four straight victories. Linemen John Williams, McKinley Boston and Bob Stein and back Tom Sakal were stars of a stout defense. On offense, Warmath stuck with a previously stated theory: "There are three things that can happen when you pass and two of them are bad."
The Gophers threw 182 passes and rushed 517 times, mostly behind fullback Jim Carter, halfback George Kemp and quarterback Curtis Wilson.
The Big Ten title race came down to favorite Purdue, the Gophers and upstart Indiana. And there was this twist: Purdue was not eligible to go to the Rose Bowl. A year earlier, Purdue had gone to Pasadena as the Big Ten runner-up, since 1966 champion Michigan State went after the '65 season.
I'm not putting you on here. Fifty years ago, bowl games were seen as unneeded interruptions in a school's educational mission in the haughty Big Ten.
The Gophers were pummeled 47-12 at Purdue in a game of conference unbeatens on Nov. 11. A week later, the Gophers thrashed Indiana 33-7 at Memorial Stadium.
That put the Gophers in this strange position entering the final Saturday: They could root for Purdue to beat Indiana and get a trip to the Rose Bowl as Big Ten runners-up, or they could root for Indiana to beat Purdue and get a three-way tie for the Big Ten championship — an outcome that would send Indiana to the Rose Bowl, based on the Hoosiers never having been the Big Ten representative.
The Gophers did their part, beating Wisconsin 21-14, but Indiana shocked No. 3 Purdue 19-14.
Apparently, the Gophers preferred a solo title for the Boilermakers.
"I've never heard a quieter dressing room after a victory," Warmath said. "I'm happy that we tied for the championship, but also disappointed because the boys wanted that last game in Pasadena on Jan. 1 and they won't get it."