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Minnesota Football: Building the Perfect Season - Week 5

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The Gophers hit the road for Week 5 of our perfect season

Minnesota v Michigan Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

Big Ten football returns Oct. 24, 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 5, 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 5 games from the Gophers’ last 20 seasons.

Your 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

And here are our nominees for Week 5.

Nominee #1: ‘03 vs Penn State

Glen Mason’s best season at Minnesota seemed to take shape in Week 5 of the 2003 campaign, when the Gophers took their newly minted No. 24 ranking to Happy Valley for a date with Penn State. This was not one of Joe Paterno’s better teams, as the Nittany Lions were 2-2 heading into the matchup with Minnesota and would finish the season 3-9. But the Gophers’ 4-0 record to start the season was built entirely on cupcakes and this was seen as their first real test.

Minnesota certainly came out firing, riding their dynamic rushing duo of Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Their second touchdown came on a 12-play, 99-yard yard drive capped by a Maroney score. Penn State responded by opening the second quarter with a touchdown drive of their own, before the Gophers tacked on a 44-yard field goal from Rhys Lloyd to extend their lead to 17-7. Unfortunately, quarterback Michael Robinson and the Nittany Lions offense were able to put the Minnesota defense on its heels again, with Robinson scoring on a 10-yard quarterback draw to cut it to 17-14.

The Gophers went three-and-out on their next possession, giving Penn State a chance to get something going on offense with less than two minutes left in the half. The Nittany Lions drove down to Minnesota 11-yard line, but a tipped pass ended up in the hands of Terrance Campbell for an interception. This set the tone for a second half that was entirely a defensive struggle for both teams. Penn State had two drives end in a turnover on downs, one drive with an interception, and one drive that culminated in a missed field goal. The Gophers’ offense was quiet save for a 30-yard field goal to make the final score 20-14.

Nominee #2: ‘14 vs Michigan

The end of the Brady Hoke era at Michigan began on Sept. 27, 2014. The Wolverines were 2-2 to start the season and fans were clamoring for Hoke to bench starting quarterback Devin Gardner. He did exactly that against Minnesota, giving Shane Morris the starting nod. Having been at the game, I remember their fans cheering as the starters were announced and Morris’ name was among them. To give you an idea of how Morris fared, those same fans cheered when Hoke inserted Gardner at quarterback in the fourth quarter.

Michigan could get nothing going through the air against a Minnesota secondary that featured Derrick Wells, Eric Murray, Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Cedric Thompson, and Damarius Travis. They were able to ride De’Veon Smith to a 7-0 lead in the second quarter, but the Gophers took over from there. Mitch Leidner promptly led Minnesota on a 7-play, 72-yard scoring drive, punching it in himself on a naked bootleg for the score. Ryan Santoso’s 24-yard field goal as time expired in the first half gave the Gophers a 10-7 lead at the break, boos raining down from the stands.

Santoso added another field goal in the third quarter, but Minnesota seemed to truly take control of the game when De’Vondre Campbell tipped a pass to himself and ran 30 yards untouched to the end zone for a pick six. Morris fumbled on the next possession and Theiren Cockran recovered, setting up another touchdown drive for the Gophers as Leidner found Maxx Williams in the end zone to extend their lead to 27-7. Santoso’s third field goal made it 30-7 in the fourth quarter.

Then came Hoke’s botched handling of Morris, who appeared to suffer a concussion after taking a hit from Cockran but remained in the game despite being visibly dazed. Hoke eventually pulled Morris and put in Gardner, who at one point lost his helmet and had to be sidelined for a play. Stunningly, Hoke put Morris back in for that one play. Gardner relieved him the next play and led the Wolverines to first scoring drive since the first quarter.

Nominee #3: ‘19 vs Purdue

I won’t get into too much detail with is one, but you know the headline: Tanner Morgan was 21-for-22 for 396 passing yards and four touchdowns, setting a Big Ten single-game record with a 95.5% completion percentage. Rashod Bateman hauled in seven receptions for 177 receiving yards and touchdowns, and Tyler Johnson and Chris Autman-Bell each had a touchdown to their name. With a 28-10 lead at halftime, the Gophers took their foot off the pedal a bit in the second half, allowing the Boilermakers to close the gap to 38-31, even after losing quarterback Elijah Sindelar and All-American wide receiver Rondale Moore to injury on the same play.

Those are your nominees, whether you like them or not. Make your pick below and we’ll declare a Week 5 winner next week when we announce our selection for Week 6! Week 6 will effectively serve as the “bye week” of our perfect season because I’ve reviewed all the possible nominees and there is only one clear choice. Check back next week to find out what that is!

Poll

Which Week 5 game is your pick for the 2020 Perfect Season?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    ‘03 vs Penn State
    (18 votes)
  • 72%
    ‘14 vs Michigan
    (123 votes)
  • 17%
    ‘19 vs Purdue
    (29 votes)
170 votes total Vote Now