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 4, 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 4 games from the Gophers’ last 20 seasons.
Your selections so far:
And here are our nominees for Week 4.
Nominee #1: ‘05 vs Purdue
This was a wild one. The Boilermakers entered the game 2-0 and ranked as high as No. 10 in the Coaches Poll. I honestly have no idea what merited that ranking, but it did not last long after their visit to the Metrodome. The Gophers opened up a 10-0 lead in the second quarter, capped by a one-yard touchdown run for Gary Russell. It was the start of a big day for Russell, who was second fiddle to Laurence Maroney but racked up three touchdowns against Purdue.
The Boilermakers were able to get on the board before halftime, scoring on a 49-yard touchdown from Brandon Kirsch to Charles Davis. Minnesota tried to pull away in the second half, with Bryan Cupito finding Gary Russell in the end zone to extend their lead to 17-7. But Purdue would not go quietly, eventually taking a 21-20 lead in the fourth quarter on another Kirsch touchdown pass. The back-breaker for the Gophers seemed to come when Cupito through a pick six that Dan Bick returned 30 yards for the score, but Minnesota was able to rally to tie the game with less than two minutes in regulation, completing a two-point conversion to make it 28-28.
In overtime, the teams traded blows in the first round, although the Gophers were facing 4th & Goal at one point and needed Cupito to find Logan Payne in the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown to extend the game. Russell scored his third touchdown to open the second overtime, and the Minnesota defense stopped Purdue on four plays to escape with the 42-35 victory.
Nominee #2: ‘12 vs Syracuse
I will always remember this as the Donnell Kirkwood game, because carried the offense. His numbers were not eye-popping in the box score — 28 carries, 99 rushing yards, and two touchdowns — but he carried the load for the Gopher offense.
Kirkwood’s first touchdown was their only score in the first half, as kicker Jordan Wettstein missed two field goals. Fortunately the Minnesota defense came to play, stifling the Orange offense by forcing an interception on the first play of the game, limiting them to only a field goal in the first half, and forcing a fumble before halftime to thwart one last scoring opportunity.
Leading 7-3 at the break, Minnesota wasted no time coming out of the locker room, extending their lead to 14-3 with another Kirkwood touchdown on the opening drive of the second half. Syracuse responded by driving down to Minnesota 4-yard line, where linebacker Aaron Hill intercepted Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib on 3rd & Goal. On their next drive, the Orange would again drive into Minnesota territory, but linebacker Keanon Cooper forced a fumble at 23-yard line and Scott Ekpe recovered. Syracuse would not score a touchdown until their final drive of the game, but by then the Gophers had managed to tack on a field goal for a 17-10 final score.
Nominee #3: ‘15 vs Ohio
If the 2012 Syracuse game was the Donnell Kirkwood game, then the 2015 Ohio game was the Shannon Brooks game. This was when he made his Minnesota debut as a true freshman, rushing for 82 yards on 10 carries and scoring two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 30 seconds left. The Gophers were held scoreless in the first quarter and trailed 7-0 before Brooks broke loose for 40 yards in the second quarter to even the score. The Bobcats quickly responded with a touchdown of their own, but Minnesota was again able to pull even before halftime on a Mitch Leidner touchdown run for a 14-14 score at the break.
Coming out of the locker room, the Gophers took the lead on a 49-yard Ryan Santoso field goal on 4th & 24. But early in the fourth quarter, Craig James muffed a punt return and Ohio recovered, scoring one play later to pull ahead 21-17. Leidner drove the Gophers to the Bobcat six-yard line but had to settle for a field goal, and Ohio matched it with one of their own to lead 24-20.
With less than three minutes left to play, Minnesota mounted an 11-play, 78-yard scoring drive, capped by a three-yard touchdown run by Brooks for the go-ahead score.
Those are your nominees, whether you like them or not. Make your pick below and we’ll declare a Week 4 winner next week when we announce the nominees for Week 5!
Which Week 4 game is your pick for the 2020 Perfect Season?
This poll is closed
‘05 vs Purdue
‘12 vs Syracuse
‘15 vs Ohio