In preparation of P.J. Fleck’s first Gopher game, I thought it would be cool to look at how other coaches did in their first contest. Today it’s Glen Mason. Losing 3-17 to a Hawaii team that only went 3-9 that year wasn’t a great start. Mase did bounce back, winning his first home game (against Iowa State 53-29) on his way to a 3-9 inagural season. Despite the Gophers having a tough first year under Glen, he would coach the squad for until 2006 going 64–57 overall and 32–48 in the Big Ten. Not great but given how bad the program was when he inherited it, pretty successful overall.
But back to the August 30, 1997 game against Hawaii. Here is the game recap from Jon Roe of the Star Tribune.
Gophers marooned in Hawaii
`U' offense struggles in Mason's first game
HAWAII 17, GOPHERS 3
Hawaii, which had a 2-10 record and the worst defense in the Western Athletic Conference a year ago, allowed the Gophers a first-quarter field goal Saturday and that was all as the Rainbows posted a 17-3 victory at Aloha Stadium, spoiling Glen Mason's debut as Minnesota's coach.
The Gophers expected to establish a ball-control offense. However, they never advanced past their own 37 in the second half.
Hawaii's defense overpowered the Gophers offensive line. No holes were opened for Gophers running back Thomas Hamner, and quarterback Cory Sauter was under constant pressure.
Other than Sauter becoming the Gophers' career passing-yardage leader at more than 5,290, little stood out for Minnesota's offense.
"I didn't expect that many mistakes," said Mason, who appeared remarkably calm after the game. "It's hard for a defense that hasn't had much success to hang in there when the offense isn't doing much. But our defense did."
Hawaii had only 174 yards total offense; the Gophers had 221. But Sauter, after completing his first six attempts, hit only seven of 21 the rest of the game.
In the end, penalties, a pair of fumbles and a pass interception - all of which sound familiar to Gophers fans of recent years - had Minnesota ready to say a less-than-joyous Aloha.
The Gophers were trailing 7-3 at halftime after squandering a chance to take the lead in the final two minutes of the second quarter, and then dodging two bullets before the intermission.
The Gophers opened the game with a 37-yard drive before being stopped, and then did very little offensively until the end of the first half.
Minnesota took a 3-0 lead on Adam Bailey's field goal midway through the first quarter. The field goal was set up by redshirt freshman Sean Hoffman's interception at the Hawaii 45. The Gophers' scoring drive was kept alive thanks to a defensive holding penalty against the Rainbows.
The Gophers accumulated only 7 yards the rest of the quarter and Hawaii - on the passing of quarterback Tim Carey - had the upper hand well into the second quarter. The Rainbows went ahead when Steve Kemph's line-drive punt to midfield was returned 15 yards by senior Eddie Klaneski. Quincy Jacobs ran for 14 yards, and Carey hit Wesley Morris for 10 to reach the Gophers 5-yard line. Carey scored three plays later.
Klaneski made another big play midway through the second quarter. Sauter had a deflected pass go to Luke Leverson for a 22-yard gain, and Sauter scrambled for 9 yards and a first down at the Hawaii 27. On the next play, Sauter lofted a pass for Leverson, who was open in the end zone, but Klaneski darted across the field and intercepted the ball for a touchback.
The Gophers appeared headed for a touchdown later in the quarter after freshman Justin Hall was inserted at fullback and his blocking helped Hamner gain 61 yards - including a 34-yard run - in six carries to reach the Hawaii 3. But three running plays gained nothing, and Bailey came in to attempt a field goal from the Hawaii 12.
The snap was high and Bailey's attempt was blocked by Al Hunter and recovered by Klaneski, who went 96 yards for an apparent touchdown. However, Hawaii was called for an illegal block at the Gophers 18 and Eric Hannum's eventual field-goal attempt from the Gophers 23 was wide with 19 seconds remaining.
"Not scoring when we were at the goal line near the end of the first half, that became a big part of the game as the game went on," Mason said. "I was pleased with the way the defense played. But the offense wasn't consistent, didn't make big plays, and made too many mistakes.
"On paper, you would have thought this was going to be a game between two high-flying offenses with the defenses just trying to hang on, It turned out to be just the opposite. Both offense weren't any good."
The Gophers had 173 total yards in the first half to 100 by Hawaii, but Minnesota was penalized five times and suffered an interception. Hamner gained 86 yards in 15 carries, and Sauter was 8-for-11 for 75 yards.
Neither team was able to establish a sustained offense in the third quarter, although Hawaii maintained superior field position by putting two punts inside the Gophers 10.
The Minnesota offensive line could not clear any running room for Hamner or provide Sauter with enough time to complete passes. In their three third-quarter possessions, the Gophers never advanced past their 34. Minnesota punted twice, and Hamner fumbled after making a nice run after catching a short pass from Sauter. The fumble was recovered by the ever-present Klaneski.