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Minnesota Football: The 1905 Ten Win Gophers

GoAUpher: Bumped for more glorious history.

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Gopher football game in 1905, view from on top of the Armoury. via collections.mnhs.org

In the lead up to today's Texas Bowl everyone from Jerry Kill to the average fan has talked up the fun bit of trivia that a bowl victory would be the second 9+ win season since 1905. That's cool, but what's up with that 1905 season? Turns out shit got real in 1905.

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Minnesota Coach Dr. Henry L. Williams, (in the middle), 1905. via Library of Congress.

The Gophers had been terrorizing opponents with Coach Dr. Williams (they guy they named The Barn after), and Bobby Marshall (the Big Ten's first African American football player) leading the team to 35 games without a loss from 1903 until 1905. Minnesota's only loss in 1905, was the Wisconsin game (the 16 points the Badgers scored were the only points Minnesota allowed all season). The Gophers still finished in second place in the Big Ten, thanks to beating the piss out of four local high school teams (and people say our non-conference schedule is easy now).

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Bobby Marshall in 1905.

The Gophers typically had 12, 13, 14 game seasons. Minnesota was playing a lot of games and winning most of them, however, things were about to change for the 1906 schedule.

Football was going through a controversial period, similar to today's discussions about concussions and the game. The turning point was 1905 when nineteen people actually died playing football. President Teddy Roosevelt (aka KING HATER) threatened to shut down the game if drastic changes were not made. The game did evolve for the 1906 season.

In 1906 the forward pass was legalized ("legalize it") in efforts to make the game less dangerous, and teams like Minnesota no longer played against wimpy high schools.

Some fun trivia, the rules were still a little different in 1906:

-touchdowns were 5 points

-field goals were 4 points

-the field was 110 yards

-the offense had 3 downs to get 10 yards

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"Photograph" of the first legal forward pass, via the Iowa Sport.

With the rules changing Minnesota changed too. While the U of M had played 11 games in 1905, it only scheduled 5 games for 1906 (leaving off Wisconsin, for the only time ever, thanks a lot Teddy Roosevelt). The Gophers' best years were still to come but because of the 1906 rules changes fewer games were scheduled for the team's glory years.

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Bernie Bierman, bowl game hater, circa 1940. via collections.mnhs.org

The Gophers golden years in the 1930s and early 40s only played an 8 game schedule and never played in bowl games, because the Big Ten wasn't sending its conference champion to the Rose Bowl. Teams like Minnesota in the 1930s actually opposed going to the Rose Bowl because they saw it as a meaningless exhibition game (lol) that was too risky to play, as a loss could tarnish their otherwise dominant season.

So drink up and enjoy the game today. Hopefully a win today, and a 9 win season is a shift in the Gophers fortunes and seasons like 1905 and 2013 are more commonplace in the future.*

*Knock on wood, hopefully this doesn't jinx today's game.

Editors of The Daily Gopher retain the right to remove posts deemed excessively offensive or grossly inappropriate. Keep it clean and don't be mean.

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