I was 14-years-old when I first heard the term, “Goofer.”
I was sitting in the stands with my father at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2005. It was at least an hour before the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Minnesota Golden Gophers, led by then head coach Glen Mason, would take the field for the kickoff.
I had never seen the Gophers play in person before. These were the nascent years of my fandom, and I was excited to see my team in action for the first time. As soon as we took our seats, it didn’t take long before a couple fans sitting nearby took notice of my Gopher gear and began offering some family-friendly trash talk directed at the “Goofers.”
It was a gentle ribbing, but one I would never forget, in large part because of how much I would be traumatized by the actual game itself.
At the time, I thought the Gophers had a good chance of emerging victorious (I was a fool). Star running back Laurence Maroney had rushed for 1,345 yards and 10 touchdowns up to that point in the season (Maroney finished the game with 10 rushing yards). Minnesota was coming off back-to-back wins over Michigan State and Indiana (9th and 10th in the Big Ten that season, respectively). Iowa was wallowing in a disappointing season for the most part, but had managed to upset No. 19 Wisconsin on the road the previous week to clinch a bowl berth.
The stage was set for devastating disappointment. It certainly delivered.
Here is how the Gophers’ first half offensive possessions ended:
- Missed FG
- Turnover on Downs
And here is how the Hawkeyes’ offense fared in the first half:
- Field Goal
The halftime score was 38-7, with the Gophers’ lone score coming on a 56-yard interception return for a touchdown by Minnesota linebacker John Shevlin. It was a baptism by fire, and the man introducing me to the flames was senior Iowa wide receiver Ed Hinkel.
Coming into this game, which was the regular season finale for both teams, Hinkel had 24 receptions, 280 receiving yards, and 1 touchdown. By the end of the game, he had added 7 receptions, 151 receiving yards, and 4 touchdowns to that total. His four receiving touchdowns tied a Kinnick Stadium record that has yet to be broken.
This gem from Mason perfectly encapsulated the game (and his tenure at Minnesota):
"So much of football is mental," Minnesota coach Glen Mason said. "You always look at why? I don't know why. Did you perform well? No. Why? I don't know."
The Gophers managed to outscore Iowa in the second half and close the gap for a slightly less embarrassing final score of 52-28. But by then, I was inconsolable. We didn’t even stay until the end (which is not something I’ve made a habit out of as an adult). I was upset with the Gophers, but I was filled with nothing but loathing for the black and gold.
A hatred for the Hawkeyes had been born.
I’ve only been back to Kinnick once since then. I was there last year to witness the Hawkeyes topple No. 3 Michigan 14-13 with a field goal as time expired. To make matters worse, I was there with a friend from Michigan, and both of us were expecting the Wolverines to wipe the field with the Hawkeyes. It was a euphoric experience for the Iowa fans in attendance, and yet another miserable Kinnick Stadium experience for me.
This Saturday, I will return to Kinnick Stadium for my first Iowa-Minnesota game since that fateful November afternoon in 2005. And in the company of a Hawkeye fan, no less. I’ll be entering the gates of a color-coordinated hellscape from which the Gophers haven’t emerged with a victory since 1999. I don’t know what Saturday’s game holds in store for me — I’m admittedly not confident, but confidence is not something most Gopher fans are familiar with — but I’m hopeful P.J. Fleck’s Gophers will give me something to cheer about.
I take solace knowing that, at the very least, Ed Hinkel won’t be there.