Friday night’s game will be the first meeting between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Indiana Hoosiers in five years, thanks to the Big Ten’s cross-division scheduling.
If it’s anything like their last game, buckle up. You’re in for a wild ride.
It was November 2, 2013. Then head coach Jerry Kill had taken a leave of absence after suffering a seizure four weeks earlier prior to the Michigan game, naming defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys as acting head coach. After losing to the Wolverines to drop to 0-2 in the conference and 4-2 on the season, the Gophers surprised Northwestern on the road before upsetting No. 24-ranked Nebraska for their first win over the Cornhuskers since 1960.
So the Gophers were obviously riding high when they made the trip to Bloomington.
I was in the stands for the game, visiting a friend who was attending grad school at Indiana and working as a grad assistant in their athletics department (Thanks for the ticket, Jay!). It was an afternoon kickoff, with a high temperature in the 50s, but the game would continue into the early evening, when the temperature dropped down into the 30s.
That’s one of the two things I remember most about that night. How cold it felt by the end of the game, and the roller coaster of emotions that came before it.
It had all the makings of a back-and-forth contest, with both teams trading blows early in the game. Indiana led 13-7 with 13:40 left in the second quarter before Minnesota appeared to blow the game wide open. 28 unanswered points from the Gophers spotted them a 35-13 lead in the third quarter, capped by David Cobb going 27 yards untouched to the end zone. It felt like Minnesota had complete control of the game at that point.
But in the words of Lee Corso, not so fast, my friend.
On their next drive, the Hoosiers came alive and scored.
Then they scored again.
Indiana was shredding the Gopher defense, suddenly moving the ball seemingly at will. The first score was a 40-yard touchdown strike from Nate Sudfeld to Shane Wynn, followed by a 55-yard burst down the sideline by Tevin Coleman. Suddenly, I wasn’t feeling so good. A Memorial Stadium crowd that was lifeless at halftime was energized by a comeback that seemed all but inevitable.
With 5:33 left in the fourth quarter, the Hoosiers completed their comeback, taking a 39-35 lead over Minnesota with a 30-yard pass from Sudfeld to Cody Latimer. The Gopher offense, which had been rendered inert during this entire stretch — including two drives that ended on failed fourth down conversions — took the field hoping to mount a comeback of their own.
Five players later, Philip Nelson found tight end Maxx Williams streaking down the middle of the field, connecting for a 50-yard go-ahead touchdown pass.
But there was three minutes left on the clock, and the Hoosier offense had scored on four consecutive possessions up to that point. None of those drives had last more than two minutes. Gopher fans will almost certainly know what I was feeling then.
I’d seen this game before, I was certain. But this time around, the ending was different.
Instead of the Gophers shooting themselves in the foot, the Hoosiers grabbed the gun, driving to the Minnesota 9-yard line before Coleman let a dropped backwards pass roll around on the turf. Gopher linebacker Aaron Hill scooped it up to seal the game.
The Memorial Stadium crowd went silent. I was speechless as well, but for entirely different reasons. I had witnessed a game I’ll never forget, for all the right reasons.
I won’t be in the stands for Friday night’s game, but I can only hope the Gopher fans in attendance will be able to say the same about their experience.