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 13, 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 13 games from the 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
Week 9: ‘13 vs Nebraska
Week 10: ‘13 vs Indiana
Week 11: ‘19 vs Penn State
Week 12: ‘10 vs Iowa
And here are our nominees for Week 13.
Nominee #1: ‘14 vs Nebraska
Jerry Kill’s Gophers rolled into Lincoln needing a win to remain in contention for a trip to Indianapolis after suffering a 31-24 loss to Ohio State the previous week. To do so, Minnesota would need to record their first road win over Nebraska since 1960.
Nebraska opened up a 7-0 lead on their first drive of the game, capitalizing on a 73-yard pass from Tommy Armstrong Jr. to Kenny Bell with a two-yard plunge by Ameer Abdullah for the touchdown. Minnesota answered on their next possession, scoring on a one-yard touchdown run by Mitch Leidner to even the score. The Gophers would not score again in the first half, as Armstrong connected with De’Mornay Pierson-El for an 18-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter to retake the lead. Then Minnesota had a field goal attempt blocked and returned 85 yards for a touchdown by Nate Gerry to give Nebraska a 21-7 halftime lead.
The Gopher defense made a statement on the Huskers’ opening drive of the second half, dropping Armstrong twice for sacks to force a punt on 4th & 25 from the Nebraska 10. Minnesota capitalized on the good field position, cutting the score to 21-14 on a David Cobb touchdown run. But Cobb pulled a hamstring on the play and was not available the rest of the game.
Holding Nebraska to a field goal on their next drive, Minnesota countered with a touchdown drive that relied on Rodrick Williams and Donnell Kirkwood to grind out yards, culminating in an 18-yard touchdown run by Williams on 4th & 1. With eight minutes left in the game, the Gophers orchestrated a 10-play, 78-yard scoring drive, taking their first lead of the game on another Leidner touchdown run. To close it out, Minnesota needed an unbelievable play by cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun. On 3rd & 9 at the Minnesota 30, Armstrong seemed to find Pierson-El for what would have been the go-ahead score, but Boddy-Calhoun ripped the ball from Pierson-El before he reached the end zone. The Gophers ran out the clock from there.
Nominee #2: ‘18 vs Wisconsin
The Gophers snapped a 14-game losing streak to the Badgers in 2018, prevailing 37-15 to re-claim Paul Bunyan’s Axe in Camp Randall and secure a bowl bid. Minnesota showed fight early, stopping the Badgers inside the red zone on their first possession and forcing them to attempt a field goal that was wide of the uprights. The Gophers took a 3-0 lead near the end of the first quarter thanks to a 34-yard field goal from Emmit Carpenter.
Coney Durr’s interception of Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook killed a potential scoring drive for the Badgers, and Minnesota was able to convert it into points on a 10-yard Mohamed Ibrahim touchdown run on 4th & 1. Demetrius Douglas extended their lead to 17-0 on 69-yard punt return for a touchdown on the next drive, though Wisconsin scored before halftime to cut it to 17-7.
In the second half, the Gophers again converted turnovers into points. Julian Huff intercepted Hornibrook, setting up a scoring drive that ended in another Carpenter field goal. Carter Coughlin recorded a strip sack that was recovered by Thomas Barber, which became a 23-yard Bryce Williams touchdown run on the very next play. Finally, Chris Williamson picked off Hornibrook for a third interception, and that too became a Williams touchdown and a 37-7 lead for Minnesota.
Wisconsin mounted a touchdown drive in the final minutes of the game, but it was for naught. Minnesota took home the Axe for the first time since 2003.
Nominee #3: ‘19 vs Northwestern
Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman made minced meat of the Wildcats’ secondary en route to a 38-22 win in Evanston that secured the Gophers’ first 10-win regular season since 1905. Minnesota scored on each of their first three possessions, including two touchdown passes to Bateman, to open a 21-0 lead. Bateman would finish the day with three scores, and Johnson contributed seven receptions for 125 receiving yards and one touchdown.
Those are your nominees, whether you like them or not. Make your pick below!
Which Week 13 game is your pick for the 2020 Perfect Season?
This poll is closed
‘14 vs Nebraska
‘18 vs Wisconsin
‘19 vs Northwestern