Six wins to start the Gopher football season is great for bowl eligibility. The last time that happened was 2003 and the 7th game of the season went like this. What could have been, right? Getting to 7 wins to start the year this Saturday would not only exercise that demon but it would also be fun because it’s not something that’s happened in my lifetime. That last happened in 1960. And just for fun, the 1941 team was the last to win its first 8.
But the Gophers unbeaten streak stretches back to last season too. Including 2018 Minnesota is up to 8 straight wins. History! Numbers!
All of this is interesting in the kind of way that an announcer can use them to kill a few seconds or to segue into a desired talking point. But what about those teams? The 1960 Gophers or the 1941 team?
The 1941 team was the last of Bernie Bierman’s truly dominant teams. If World War II doesn’t happen his dominance might have continued. Despite being 47 years old he enlisted in the war effort coaching military teams for 3 years starting in 1942. In fact the coolest thing about that Gopher win streak is that Bernie ended it.
Beginning November 25, 1939 and stretching the entire 1940, and 1941 seasons the Gophers went undefeated through 18 games. Bernie’s replacement, George Hauser, at Minnesota won one (1) game in the 1942 season before losing to Bierman’s Iowa Pre-Flight team in week 2. It wasn’t just Bernie, eight Gophers from that 1941 team were playing for Iowa Pre-Flight, and Minnesota almost pulled it out.
The 1960 Rose Bowl team is another interesting story. A worst to first situation that might have saved Murray Warmath’s job. Heading into the year the Gophers hadn’t had a winning season in 4 years and the 1959 Gophers finished the bottom of the Big Ten.
The team was really led by Tom Brown, possibly the most under appreciated Gopher great. Playing both ways Tom led the defense, the strength of the team, and finished second in Heisman voting the highest ever for an interior offensive lineman.
The best game of that year was #1 Iowa vs #3 Minnesota. Here is the recap from the Gopher yearbook:
The noise of the record 65,610 fans broke full force at the opening kickoff and didn’t subside until Minnesota had emerged a 27 to 10 victor. With the eyes of the nation fixed on the outcome it was appropriate that Tom Brown should play the best game of his college career. Brown’s crushing line play definitely played an important part in the final outcome.
Winning streaks are great, and we don’t see enough of them. But they all end so we should enjoy this one while it’s happening.