Big Ten football is back, but we are forging ahead with our quest to build a perfect season of Minnesota Golden Gophers football over 13 weeks, inviting readers to choose from three nominees for each week of the season dating back to 2000. For example, with this being Week 9, I have selected the three “best” — and the specific criteria for “best” is going to vary week to week, depending on what I have to work with — Week 9 games from the Gophers’ last 20 seasons.
Our selections so far:
Week 1: ‘16 vs Oregon State
Week 2: ‘19 vs Fresno State
Week 3: ‘19 vs Georgia Southern
Week 4: ‘05 vs Purdue
Week 5: ‘14 vs Michigan
Week 6 (Bye Week): ‘05 vs Michigan
Week 7: ‘00 vs Ohio State
Week 8: ‘14 vs Purdue
And here are our nominees for Week 9.
Nominee #1: ‘09 vs Michigan State
It does not get much more fun than this. Halloween night against Michigan State with a raucous crowd at TCF Bank Stadium? The Gopher offense made it a party by supplying their own fireworks, even with wide receiver Eric Decker sidelined due to foot surgery.
Adam Weber went wild, throwing for 416 passing yards and five touchdowns, punctuated by a 59-yard touchdown pass split between tight end Nick Tow-Arnett and running back Duane Bennett. Tow-Arnett caught a 3rd & 17 pass from Weber near the Michigan State 35 but landed hard on the turf on his back, causing the ball to pop up into the hands of Bennett, who took it the rest of the way for the score. The matchup had no shortage of explosive plays, from Bennett’s 62-yard touchdown reception on the first play of the game to Michigan State’s Keshawn Martin returning a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown to open the second half.
The Gophers built a 21-10 halftime lead before the Spartans stormed back in the third quarter, outscoring Minnesota 21-7 to pull ahead 31-28 to start the fourth quarter. But Weber led the Gophers’ rally with two touchdowns in the final quarter to claim a 42-34 victory.
Nominee #2: ‘11 vs Iowa
In Jerry Kill’s first season at the helm at Minnesota, the Gophers were 1-6 and riding a four game losing streak, with blowout losses to North Dakota State, Michigan, Purdue, and Nebraska, when the Iowa Hawkeyes made the trip to TCF Bank Stadium. Kirk Ferentz’s crew was looking to re-claim the Floyd of Rosedale after losing the pig the previous year.
Minnesota could not stop Iowa running back Marcus Coker, who racked up an eye-popping 252 rushing yards on 32 carries. But the Hawkeyes simply could not finish drives. Iowa failed to convert on 4th & 6 at the Minnesota 35 on the game’s opening possession, leading to a turnover on downs. The Hawkeyes would miss two first half field goals before capitalizing on a Minnesota fumble and taking a 7-0 lead on a touchdown pass from James Vandenberg to Marvin McNutt in the second quarter. The Gophers did manage to tie the game before the break with a MarQueis Gray touchdown pass to tight end Collin McGarry with a minute left in the half.
Trailing 21-10 early in the fourth quarter, Gray led an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive capped by a Duane Bennett one-yard touchdown plunge. Then Jerry Kill rolled the dice and caught the Hawkeyes by surprise with an onside kick, and Minnesota recovered. The Gophers took the lead on 4th & Goal after Gray sprinted to the pylon for the go-ahead touchdown. Iowa went four-and-out on their ensuing possession to seal the game for Minnesota, 22-21.
Nominee #3: ‘13 vs Nebraska
With head coach Jerry Kill watching from the press box while continuing his recovery from a series of epileptic seizures, the Gophers upset No. 24-ranked Nebraska for their first win against the Cornhuskers since 1960, earning a bowl bid in the process.
At the start, the game seemed to be following the usual script, with Nebraska opening up a 10-0 lead, but Minnesota responded with a Mitch Leidner one-yard touchdown run before taking the lead on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Philip Nelson to Derrick Engel. Chris Hawthorne tacked on a 23-yard field goal to cap 17 unanswered points for the Gophers before the Huskers added a field goal of their own to cut Minnesota’s halftime lead to 17-13.
Minnesota made it clear they were not going away in the third quarter, stifling Nebraska on defense and extending their lead on offense with a Nelson touchdown run and two more field goals from Hawthorne for a 27-13 third quarter lead. But the Cornhuskers fought back with a touchdown and a field goal of their own. Clinging to a 27-23 lead with four minutes left in the game, Nelson and running back David Cobb capitalized on a bad Nebraska punt to put together an 8-play, 34-yard touchdown drive to put the game out of reach.
Those are your nominees, whether you like them or not. Make your pick below and we’ll declare a Week 9 winner next week when we announce the nominees for Week 10!
Which Week 9 game is your pick for the 2020 Perfect Season?
This poll is closed
‘09 vs Michigan State
‘11 vs Iowa
‘13 vs Nebraska