clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

#TBT--Ohio St & Minnesota--The History of Non Rivals

Despite being in the Big Ten for over 100 years the Gophers and Buckeyes have little history. I had to dig deep to find some good stuff.

To a Gopher fan the Buckeyes are like your cousins step sister that you see every few years at family get togethers, she's hot but she knows, which makes her kind of unbearable. That's the historical comparison I'm going with this week.

THE university of minnesota football squad, 1890 via MNHS

I'll be honest I don't really give a shit about Ohio State from a historic point of view. Despite the U of M and OSU being members of the Big Ten since (at least) 1912 and having 14 national championships between them, they have rarely crossed paths, or played at important moments in the last 100 plus seasons.

THE ohio state university football team in 1890. via Ohio Memory

The Big Ten was established in 1896, the Buckeyes joined in 1912 but they did not play their first game against Minnesota until 1921. To date the Gophers have played Ohio State 50 times, by comparison Michigan - Minnesota have played 100 times and new Big Ten members Nebraska have played 54 games against the U of M.

That's not to say there isn't any reason to historically dislike Ohio State. Take that first game in 1921, it ruined the Gopher's first run of dominance. Minnesota was a powerhouse under Dr. Henry L. Williams primarily because he invented the Minnesota Shift, which confused defenses by moving players around before the snap (smdh). The Minnesota Shift was used to great effect between 1900 and 1921, resulting in 8 conference championships, 1 national title and a 35 game unbeaten streak. A Wisconsin coach called the Minnesota Shift unbeatable, until the Gophers traveled to Ohio State October 15, 1921.

OSU- Minnesota 1921 game program via OSU

Ohio State combated the Minnesota Shift by mirroring the movements of the offensive players before the snap, which neutralized it's effectiveness*. The Gophers lost 27-0, the Minnesota Shift was dead, and Henry L. Williams, the winningest coach in Gopher football history was fired at the end of the season. THANKS BUCKEYES.

Did the Gophers player catch it? Maybe! Minnesota beat OSU 19-7 in 1931 when this photo was taken, via U of M

The Gophers and Buckeyes played sporadically throughout the next couple decades but the next historic game that most people mention is the 1949 match. The 1949 squad is the team that Sid Hartman has referred to as the best Gopher team ever. The team underachieved to a 7-2 record but would have 12 players drafted after the season (take that modern SEC programs!) The highpoint of the season was beating Ohio State.

Highlights from the 1949 game! Check out the quick punt on 2nd down to open the game. via Papas.

The Gophers were ranked #5 when the Buckeyes rolled into town at number 11 in the country. All American Clayton Tonnemaker, Billy Bye, and Bud Grant combined to have great games as Minnesota rolled past the Buckeyes. Unfortunately Ohio State had the last laugh by winning the Big Ten and going to the Rose Bowl in 1949. After the Buckeye victory Bernie Bierman worried that his players were feeling themselves too much and practiced them to exhaustion the next two weeks, then promptly lost to Michigan and Purdue.

Clayton Tonnemaker would kill you for making fun of his ears. Via U of M

To repay the Gophers for all of their sins Ohio State let Minnesota go to the Rose Bowl after the 1961 season. Ohio State finished in first place and went undefeated but turned down the chance to go to Pasadena because they thought it made them seem more academic....

Finally, Minnesota didn't play very well against number 1 Ohio State when they came to Dinkytown for homecoming in 1969 (losing 35-9), but the Gophers did do some good trolling...

There is a lot to take in here... Homecoming pin 1969, via U of M

*Side note, I know it's not good historical practice to use my modern knowledge to criticize the past, BUT YOU'VE GOT TO BE A G-D IDIOT TO GET CONFUSED BY PEOPLE MOVING AROUND, AND THEN GET BEAT WHEN SOMEONE DOES THE SAME THING TO YOU. /rant.