May 22, 2008

5 best wins of the Glen Mason Era

Say what you want about the Mason era, and I have, but Mase did move this program from a perpetual bottom 3 or 4 team to a middle of the road Big Ten team capable of occasionally knocking off the big boys. Obviously his lack of recruiting at every position outside of RB and OL, his contentness with mediocrity and his unique ability to lose games that appeared to be locks cost him his job. But over the course of his 10 years at the U he did mange a few significant wins that stand out. So in all fairness, after pointing out five of his ugliest losses, here is my list of top five Mason wins

#5 - Wisconsin (34) vs. Minnesota (37)
11 / 08 / 2003

Although this was the second win over Wisconsin in the Mason era this one stood out. Heading into the game Minnesota sat at 8-2, was ranked #20, but had lost a heart breaker to Michigan and hadn't beat anybody else of significance. Wisconsin was 6-3 at the time with wins earlier over #23 West Virginia and #6 Ohio State. This was a chance to beat a good team.

Wanting to make a statement the Gophers jumped out to a 24-6 lead after a Thomas Tapeh TD with 2:01 remaining in the half. The Badgers scored 36 seconds later but the lead still remained double digits heading into half time. In typical Mason fashion we let the Badgers back into it and the game was tied in the 4th after a Badger TD with 7:15 left in the game.

The Gophers and their dominating ground game of Barber / Maroney managed 6 plays and a punt. The amazing part of this game was what the defense did. Wisconsin started on their own 42 but went 3 and out gaining 1 yard. The Gophers got it back with 2:49, went 11 plays, 61 yards and was capped by a 35 yd game winning FG by Rhys Lloyd.

#4 - Minnesota (24) @ #2-Penn State (23)
11 / 06 / 1999
First significant Big Ten win for Mason

Since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten the Gophers had been unable to beat them. But this after a couple near wins was one of Masons first significant wins. Heading into the game in Happy Valley Mason's Big Ten record stood at 5-16 beating nobody of significance and only 2 road wins within the conference. What really makes this game stand out is that fact that entering the game Peterno's Lions were undefeated at 9-0 and ranked #2 in the nation.

This was a great game with both teams trading scores and the lead throughout the second half. But in the end it was a 32 yard Dan Nystrom kick as time expired that put the Gophers over the top and put Mason on the map in Gopher Nation.

#3 - Alabama (16) vs. Minnesota (20)
12 / 31 / 2004
Music City Bowl

The Penn State win above was huge but the Alabama win edges it out for #3 for two reasons. 1-the Tide had an outstanding rush defense that we shredded and 2-it was a win over an SEC team.

The Crimson tide had not allowed anybody to rush for over 100 yards all season. That included Joseph Addai (99), Ronnie Brown (55), Cadillac Williams (41) and Jerious Norwood (96). Marion Barber had more than those first three backs listed on his own with 187 yards rushing. That alone is impressive but then add that Lawrence Maroney chipped in 105. This was a game we were not supposed to win because of the fear of the Bama rush defense and if we can't run we can't win. But we ran (and ran and ran) 72 times racking up 276 yards.

In rare Mason fashion, Alabama did not score in the second half until a late safety with 3:11 to play and Minnesota secured the highly sought after Music City Bowl trophy.

#2 - Minnesota (23) @ #21-Michigan (20)
10 / 08 / 2005
First time the Little Brown Jug came home to Minnesota since 1986!

Minnesota started 4-0 including a double OT win over #11 Purdue then headed into as rough a Big Ten schedule as you will ever see @PSU, @ Mich, Wis, OSU. This was the only win in that stretch but it is likely the game that kept Mason around for the 2006 season.

After tying the game late in the third, this game was a dog fight throughout the fourth quarter. Michigan had shut down the Gopher ground game of Maroney and Gary Russell in the final quarter UNTIL Russell shook loose on a 3rd and 9 play with 1:52 remaining. Michigan appeared to have the play wrapped up at the line of scrimmage, but Russell broke to the outside got free for a 61 yard run to the Michigan 13.

At that point there was time to get centered on the field and allow Jason Giannini to knock in a 30 yard FG to win the game.

#1 - Minnesota (29) @ #6-Ohio State (17)
10 / 14 / 2000

On the road where Minnesota had not won since 1949! Yes you read that right, only two other wins in that span but both at home. I don't need to elaborate any more than that, winning in Columbus for the first time in 50 years is enough reason to be #1 on this list.

But the Gophers came ready to play jumping out to a 17-3 lead in the first quarter and knocked the Buckeyes on their heels. Minnesota never trailed, were never tied (with 0-0 being the exception) and scored a late TD to push it back up to a double digit margin.

This game was huge for Mason as he was a former Buckeye assistant and gave us a slight boost in Ohio where Mason preferred to focus his recruiting (we were finally able to beat out Mount Union for those key 3-star kids). This game was huge and gave Gopher fans hope for the next few seasons that the Gopher program had turned a corner.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"This game was huge and gave Gopher fans hope for the next few seasons that the Gopher program had turned a corner."

That hope lasted a week for me. They gave up 51 the following week at Indiana... a week after Indiana lost 58-0 against Michigan.

Penn State was the biggest win by far in my opinion....the program clinched a bowl, the biggest story in college football that day, biggest win over a ranked opponent since 77, etc., etc.