Top 10 Metrodome moments in Gophers football history
MINNEAPOLIS — In 1982, the University of Minnesota football team moved its home games off campus and played indoors for 27 years at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. It was an environment not well suited for college football, but the Gophers did make some good memories there. There were also some not-so-pleasant moments for Minnesota during that time, and many fans were delighted when the Gophers moved to their new on-campus site, TCF Bank Stadium, for the 2009 season. Here are a list of the Gophers football team’s top moments — both good and bad — at the Metrodome.
1. Minnesota collapses in the fourth quarter against Michigan
It’s a loss that still haunts Gophers fans 10 years later and has raised the question of "what if?" ever since. Minnesota entered its game against Michigan back in 2003 with a perfect 6-0 record, while the Wolverines were ranked No. 4 in the country. The 20th-ranked Gophers scored a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter to lead 28-7 heading into the fourth. That’s when the collapse began. Michigan scored four touchdowns in the fourth quarter to tie it at 35. A 33-yard field goal with 47 seconds remaining proved to be the game-winner for the Wolverines, and Minnesota went on to lose that game and its game the following week at home to Michigan State. The Gophers finished the year 9-3 and played in the Sun Bowl, but many fans wonder how things might have been different if Minnesota hung on to beat Michigan.
2. Rhys Lloyd kicks the Gophers to a win over Wisconsin
Entering the 2003 season, the Wisconsin Badgers had beaten rival Minnesota in seven of the last eight meetings dating back to 1995. Gophers kicker Rhys Lloyd made sure to change that and bring Paul Bunyan’s Axe — the trophy awarded annually to the winner of the rivalry — back to Dinkytown. The two teams battled back and forth all game, but the Gophers held the lead for most of the game until Wisconsin tied it with 7:15 to play in the fourth quarter. Lloyd lined up for a 35-yard kick that would win the game, and he drilled it as time expired. Before the ball even sailed through the uprights, Lloyd sprinted across the field to the Wisconsin sideline to grab the Axe. "I can say right now it certainly wasn’t planned, and I’ve never lived that celebration down, obviously," Lloyd said earlier this year. "I just remember when they called a timeout against me, I just felt very at ease. … I went on the field and had a chat with coach (Glen) Mason. We just talked, and he just said, ‘Don’t forget the Axe after you hit the field goal.’ I just kind of took off. I guess the rest is history, as you say."
3. Gophers fall victim to late blocked punt against the Badgers
While Lloyd’s late field goal was a happy memory against Wisconsin for Gophers fans, what took place in 2005 was the opposite. Both teams entered their game on Oct. 15 with one loss, and like many games before in this rivalry, the 2005 rendition was a close one. Both sides traded leads throughout the game, but the Gophers pulled to a 10-point advantage with 3:27 remaining in the fourth quarter, and a Minnesota win seemed all but certain. But the Badgers scored in just over a minute to pull to within 34-31. Wisconsin then forced the Gophers to punt from their own 5-yard line with just over 30 seconds remaining and no timeouts left. Wisconsin would have needed a miracle to score in that short amount of time. What happened next was something Minnesota fans still can’t forget. Gophers punter Justin Kucek dropped the ball, and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Casillas blocked it. The Badgers recovered in the end zone to take a 38-34 lead with 30 seconds remaining. Minnesota lost that game in one of the most unbelievable fashions and finished the regular season 7-4.
4. Minnesota hands Wisconsin its lone loss in 1993
The Wisconsin Badgers earned a trip to the Rose Bowl in 1993, but if not for a loss to Minnesota, Barry Alvarez and Wisconsin could have been playing for the national championship. Wisconsin was ranked 15th in the country when it came to the Metrodome on Oct. 23, 1993, and the Gophers had just three wins to that point in the season. Yet it was Minnesota coming out with the upset by topping the Badgers by a 28-21 final. Wisconsin’s hopes of a perfect season were dashed by the Gophers. Minnesota running back Chris Darkins scored a pair of touchdowns and quarterback Scott Eckers passed for 267 yards and two scores to fuel the upset. It was the third win in a row for the Gophers, and while they only won four games all year, denying their rivals of a perfect season was no doubt the highlight.
5. The Gophers top Purdue in double-overtime in 2005
The Boilermakers had Minnesota’s number for years. Leading into this matchup in 2005, Purdue had won the last seven meetings over a span of a decade. So as the Boilermakers scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to take a 28-20 lead with 5:45 to play, it seemed as if the streak would continue. But the Gophers came back to score with 1:34 to play on a touchdown pass from Bryan Cupito to Matt Spaeth, and Cupito ran the ball in to convert the two-point play and force overtime. Gary Russell’s 3-yard run in the second overtime gave Minnesota the lead and ultimately lifted the Gophers to a 42-35 victory as the losing streak against Purdue was finally snapped.
6. Iowa fans tear down the goal post — and carry it off the field
Back in 2002, the Iowa Hawkeyes needed a win over Minnesota to clinch a share of the Big Ten title. A win over the Gophers would also give Iowa 11 victories for the first time in the program’s history. Perhaps that was why the visiting Hawkeyes fans were so jubilant after their team thrashed Minnesota by a 45-21 final at the Metrodome. The Iowa faithful in attendance — and there were plenty — chose to storm the field after the game to celebrate. Not only that, but they knocked down one of the goal posts and attempted to carry it out of the stadium. The incident led to several arrests, and it stood as a low point for the Gophers. No team wants to watch a visiting opponent celebrate on its home field, but this took that to a new level.
7. Minnesota upsets Iowa in 1990
In the final game of the 1990 season, No. 13 Iowa came to the Metrodome needing a win to clinch the Big Ten Conference outright. The Gophers had other ideas. Despite playing the role of underdog, Minnesota topped the visiting Hawkeyes by a 31-24 final to move Iowa into a four-way tie in the Big Ten. One of the Gophers’ four touchdowns came via a blocked punt by Keswic Joiner, who scored a pair of touchdowns in the game. With the win, Minnesota also maintained its claim of Floyd of Rosedale, the bronze pig trophy given to the winner of this border battle rivalry.
8. Gophers and Boilermakers combine for 115 points in Minnesota win
This one was a true barnburner — or Domeburner — as Minnesota bested Purdue by a 59-56 final on Oct. 9, 1993. Gophers quarterback Scott Eckers had a huge game, throwing for six touchdowns and 402 yards on 24-of-36 passing. Five of those touchdown passes went to Omar Douglas, who set a school record with those five grabs. The game went back and forth at a rapid pace, but it wasn’t until Mike Chalberg kicked a field goal with eight seconds remaining that Minnesota had the victory in its grasp.
9. Tyrone Carter helps Minnesota upset No. 23 Syracuse
The Gophers and Orange have played just four times in their respective histories, and two of those came in back-to-back years in 1995 and 1996. While Syracuse got the best of Minnesota in 1995, it was the Gophers who returned the favor in upset fashion the following season on Sept. 21, 1996. Freshman safety Tyrone Carter was the story of the game as he returned a pair of fumbles for touchdowns in a span of just 53 seconds. The first of Carter’s two touchdowns — a 63-yard return — gave Minnesota a 14-12 lead in the third quarter, while the second made it a two-possession game. The Gophers eventually held on to win 35-33 for their third straight win to open the season.
10. Minnesota wins big in its first-ever game in the Dome
The game itself was a blowout — the Gophers beat visiting Ohio by a 57-3 final — but it was a monumental night in that it was Minnesota’s first-ever indoor home game. Prior to playing at the Metrodome, the Gophers played at Memorial Stadium on the school’s campus. That outdoor stadium was Minnesota’s home since 1924, so several generations of Gophers fans were used to watching football outdoors and on campus. That 1982 season was a disappointing one for Minnesota, which finished just 3-8 and didn’t win a Big Ten game; the Gophers went 1-10 the next year to start off the Metrodome era on a rather low note. But that first-ever game at the Metrodome was certainly a memorable one.
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