On October 22, 1977, the unranked University of Minnesota Gophers football team hosted the #1 ranked Michigan Wolverines. For the first time in ten seasons, the Gophs took back the Little Brown Jug (the rivals' traveling trophy) thanks to a 16-0 upset.
After that epic victory, the Gophs (now ranked #19) traveled to Bloomington, IN the following week and laid an egg against the lowly Indiana Hoosiers, 34-22.
On October 7, 2000, the unranked Gophers upset the #6 Ohio St. Buckeyes 29-17 in Columbus, OH. How big was that victory? The Gophs had lost 16 straight meetings with the Bucks and 28 of the previous 29. Furthermore, no Gophers squad had won in Columbus since 1949.
After that epic victory, the Gophs (now ranked #22) traveled to Bloomington, IN the following week and laid an egg against the lowly Indiana Hoosiers, 51-43.
Then last week, the Maroon & Gold upset the #25 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers 34-23 at TCF Bank Stadium. How rare was that feat? The Gophers had lost 16 consecutive meetings to the Huskers and hadn't even held a lead in the past eleven matchups.
With all that in mind, where do you suppose the Gophers were scheduled to play this week? Yep, in Bloomington, IN where they would face the Indiana Hoosiers. Only this season, the Hoosiers aren't exactly dreadful. However, if this run the Gophers were on was legitimate, they should have been able to dispatch a 3-4 team.
For 2-1/2 quarters, it appeared as though the Gophs were going to easily avoid the obligatory Bloomington letdown, as they led 35-13. Unfortunately, late in the 3rd quarter, another historical trend was beginning to rear its ugly head: The late-game big-lead meltdown, something which became a staple of the Glen Mason era (see: 2000 vs Northwestern, 2003 vs Michigan, 2005 vs Wisconsin, etc.). Indiana went on to score 26 unanswered points and take 39-35 lead with 5:33 remaining in the game. Where Gophers teams in the past may have curled up into the proverbial fetal position, this squad needed only 2-1/2 minutes to answer the Hoosiers' latest touchdown with one of their own. Quarterback Philip Nelson hit Maxx Williams with a 50-yard TD pass to put Minnesota up 42-39. With 14 seconds minute remaining, the Gophers recovered an Indiana fumble deep in their own territory to preserve the win, which was their third consecutive Big Ten victory!
Next week, the Gophers host Penn St., a very winnable game. Meanwhile, their rivals across the border, the Wisconsin Badgers, host BYU and then Indiana over the next couple of weeks, two contests which Bucky should win handily. If all goes according to plan, the matchup at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, November 23 will feature the 8-2 Gophers hosting the 8-2 Badgers. Not since the 2005 season have both teams been relevant in the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe.