Last week, we introduced our attempt to build the perfect season of Minnesota Golden Gophers football over 13 weeks, inviting our readers to choose from three nominees for each week of the season dating back to 2000. For example, with this being Week 2, I have selected the three “best” — and the specific criteria for “best” is going to vary from week to week, depending on what I have to work with — Week 2 games from the Gophers’ last 20 seasons.
Your Week 1 winner: ‘16 vs Oregon State
And here are our nominees for Week 2.
Nominee #1: ‘09 vs Air Force
The opening of the on-campus TCF Bank Stadium was christened with an inaugural game that did not disappoint (in terms of competitiveness, at least). The Gophers’ offense was largely absent in the first half, scoring the first points of the game on a 34-yard Eric Ellestad field goal for a 3-0 lead. But that was all the production Minnesota could muster before halftime, as the Falcons countered with a field goal of their own to head to the locker room tied at 3-3.
On the opening drive of the second half, Air Force stormed down to the Minnesota 9-yard line but were turned away on 4th & 1 thanks to a tackle by Nate Triplett. But on their next possession, the Falcons caught the Gopher defense napping and took the lead on a 37-yard touchdown pass. Minnesota responded with their first touchdown drive of the game, scoring on a 7-yard DeLeon Eskridge run. With the score knotted again, Air Force drove to midfield but fumbled and Triplett picked it up for the scoop-and-score, returning it 52 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
The Gophers tacked on a field goal on their next possession to seal the victory.
Nominee #2: ‘15 vs Colorado State
Following a season-opening loss to No. 2-ranked TCU, the Gophers traveled to Colorado State for a matchup with the Rams, fresh off a 10-3 season in 2014 but with first-year head coach Mike Bobo at the helm after his predecessor, Jim McElwain, left for Florida.
Much like our first nominee, this game did not see a lot of action from the Gopher offense in the first half. Colorado State threw an interception to Briean Boddy-Calhoun on the first play of the game, but Minnesota went three-and-out on the ensuing drive. The Rams proceeded to march 79 yards in seven plays to take a 7-0 lead. The Gophers responded by going three-and-out on four of their next five possessions, gaining 28 total yards over that stretch. They did manage to get on the board before halftime, using two Ryan Santoso field goals to cut the Rams’ lead to 7-6.
But Minnesota came out firing in the second half, taking a 13-7 lead on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Mitch Leidner to Drew Wolitarsky. Jalen Myrick intercepted Colorado State quarterback Nick Stevens on the next drive, but the Gopher offense went back into its shell from there. The Rams used a field goal to cut it to 13-10 before opening the fourth quarter with a 49-yard touchdown pass to pull ahead 17-13. With less than four minutes left in regulation, Leidner led a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive capped by a 22-yard go-ahead touchdown pass to K.J. Maye.
But Colorado State forced overtime with a 37-yard field goal as the clock expired. Fortunately, on the first play of overtime, Cody Poock was able to force a fumble that was then recovered by Scott Ekpe. The Gophers took the lead for a good an 18-yard field goal by Santoso.
Nominee #3: ‘19 vs Fresno State
This one should be fresh in your memory, so I won’t get into too much detail. It was a back-and-forth game, with the Gophers drawing first blood on a 15-yard touchdown pass to Rashod Bateman on their first drive of the game. It was 14-10 Minnesota at halftime before the Bulldogs scored 11 unanswered points in the third quarter to take a 21-14 lead. The teams traded blows again in the fourth, with the Gophers punching back to tie the game on a Mohamed Ibrahim touchdown before Fresno State would pull ahead again on a Jorge Reyna rush.
Then came the incredible 20-yard touchdown pass from Tanner Morgan to Chris Autman-Bell on 4th & 13 with less than a minute left in regulation, sending the game into overtime. Both teams scored in the first overtime, before Minnesota had to settle for a field goal on the opening possession of the second overtime. Fresno State looked poised to steal it when Reyna launched a pass to a wide open receiver in the end zone on their first play, but Antoine Winfield Jr. stepped in to seal it for the Gophers for the second straight year.
Those are your nominees, whether you like them or not. Make your pick below and we’ll declare a Week 2 winner next week when we announce the nominees for Week 3!
Which Week 2 game is your pick for the 2020 Perfect Season?
This poll is closed
‘09 vs Air Force
‘15 vs Colorado State
‘19 vs Fresno State