May 15, 2008

5 Worst losses of the Glen Mason Era

The offseason is here and there is little to keep the blogging juices flowing. So I wanted to look back and give my top 5 worst Glen Mason losses. This is not meant to pick open the Mason scab and scratch it till it bleeds again, but I thought it would be an interesting topic and give a springboard for others to give their thoughts on worst losses.

To be fair I will post my top 5 Glen Mason wins and one could easily argue that none of these losses was as bad as losing to North Dakota State at home.

#5 - Houston (45) @ Minnesota (43)
9 / 27 / 1997 - Mason's first season

In what would prove to be a Mason staple, his first season presented us with a cupcake non-conference schedule. After losing to Hawaii (not as considered a 'good loss' in 1997) and beating what would be a 1-10 Iowa State team, we got to see a couple CUSA teams to kick the Mason era into high gear. We beat 4-7 Memphis on the road then Houston came to the Metrodome to get us ready for the Big Ten.

This game makes the list because it was the first of embarrassing losses in the Mason era. This game was no nearly as close as it appeared on the final box score. A touchdown and 2-pnt conversion were scored to 0:03 left on the clock to bring this game to single digits. While technically it was a 2 point loss, this essentially was a 10 point loss to a CUSA team, AT HOME.

This game was the first in a line of games in which Mason's teams somehow snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

  • Min outgained Hou
  • Min had six more first downs than Hou
  • Min had fewer penalties that accounted for 45 yds
  • Minnesota's starting QB was 25/35, 368 yds, 3 TDs and two rushing TDs
I realize these are not dominating statistics, but outgaining, fewer penalties, more first downs and a great game from your starting QB rarely end up in essentially double-digit losses to weak teams from weak conferences at home.

#4 - Minnesota (43) @ Indiana (51)
10 / 21 / 2000

This game makes the list because of it's impeccable timing. Coming into this game Minnesota was 3-1 in conference and had just upset Ohio State on the road. Their remaining schedule including @Indiana, Northwestern and a down Iowa team. A loss at Wisconsin was expected but this was shaping up to be the year we made a run at the Rose Bowl.

Instead of winning the games they were supposed to win, the Gophers followed up with Ohio State win by giving up 611 yards and 51 points to the Hoosiers. Despite our awful defense we were able to take the lead and hold it till the final 17:18 of the game. But then we allowed 27 points, scored a meaningless TD late to keep this from being a 16 point blowout.

MN was 3-1 in 2000 in B10 having Ind, NW and Iowa (3-9) on the schedule. This after winning @ OSU. Up with 10:13 in the 3rd only to be outscored 27-14. This started a tailspin that ended with another awful loss to NW at home during homecoming.

Ultimately this started a tailspin for the Gophers who then lost at home to Northwestern by being outscored 27-7 in the 2nd half, and then lost @ Wisconsin by giving up the final 21 points after being tied in the 4th qtr. Those games merit consideration for this list but they were fueled by the loss to Indiana.

#3 - Texas Tech (44) vs. Minnesota (41)
Insight Bowl

This was the final embarrassment for AD Joel Maturi and was Mason's final game. One could argue that this game should be #1 on the list for that very reason, but this loss doesn't hold the same embarrasment factor as the top 2 simply because it was played in a meaningless bowl game, watched by few on the NFL Network and most Gopher fans will admit they weren't all that surprised.

Up 35-7 at halftime and actually was up 38-7 (that is 31 points) with under 5:00 in the 3rd qtr. Besides giving up 31 consecutive points in the last 20 minues, the vaunted Gopher defense racked up some rather impressive stats...
  • a grand total of 3 stops on 3rd down
  • 1 forced punt
  • 445 yds passing allowed
  • the five final scoring drives for TT each took less than 3:00
The offense didn't help much either. In their final five drives of the game they managed to go 4 yds, 35 yds, 6 yds and -5 yds. The final two drives of regulation began just shy of midfield after failed onside attempts by TT and resulted in back to back three and outs.

As I mentioned before I think many Gopher fans were wary of assuming a victory at any point in this game. If the Mason era had taught us anything it was that no game was over until the coaches shook hands on the field. It was the perfect game to end his tenure and an instant classic we will all never forget.

#2 - Wisconsin (38) @ Minnesota (34)

Another classic example of Mason 4th quarter game management. This game could also make an argument for #1 it was a rivalry game, at home and would have given you realistic chance at a Jan. 1 bowl game. Here is how this little gem played out...

Up 10 with under 3:00 to play.
Gave up a TD with 2:10 (up 3).
Couldn't get a first down to run out the clock.
Had to punt with under 1:00 left on the clock (still up 3).
Punt blocked after bad snap.
Badgers fall on it in endzone to take the lead with 0:30 left.

Take a knee, take a safety, anything but try to kick it on the run getting it blocked. It is hard to come down and blame this loss solely on the punter. Had your head coach said to him, if anything should go wrong take a safety, things would have likely worked out in our favor. But beyond that play when you get 258 yards rushing from Maroney and 139 from Gary Russell there is no real excuse for losing.

This day was actually the same day USC escaped with a win over Notre Dame in what was a great game to watch. I was actually at that game but that day will forever be tainted by this Gopher loss.

#1 - Michigan (38) @ Minnesota (35)
10 / 10 / 2003

This game was likely the difference between the Rose Bowl and the Sun Bowl. Entering the game the Gophers were 6-0 overall, 2-0 in Big Ten play winning two road games @ Penn State and Northwestern. That left us with 4 home games in our final 6. This was the statement game needed and with the favorable schedule a chance to be the Big Ten front-runner.

Minnesota came out and for three quarters played like they wanted it and they belonged leading 28-7 and absolutely dominating Michigan. I believe we only gave up 77 yards of offense in the first half. But this was a Glen Mason special as we gave up 31 points in the 4th quarter and managing to get just 7 to try and stop the bleeding.

When you are able to rush for 424 yards there is absolutely no reason you shouldn't be able to milk the clock and nurse a three touchdown lead for the final quarter. This one hurt and was brutal to watch.

All things being equal and turning out as they eventually did, winning this game would have put us in a tie for 1st place at the end of the season and likely a Rose Bowl berth. At the very least it would have made an incredibly strong case for something like the Capital One Bowl or another significant Jan. 1 bowl. Even with the other bad losses on his resume, getting this win would have kept Mason's job at the end of the 2006 season.


There you have it. That is my list and I'm sticking to it. There were many others under consideration and if you look closely enough you'll be able to find several games where we gave up the last 10 points in a game to lose a close one. All were considered and were top 10 worthy but not top 5. Give me your thoughts.



FishingMN said...

Good list.

Those first 2 were really bad. I was at the Wisconsin game - only game I've been at in the past 10 years. I remember thinking that it was fun to be at Gopher football. Then afterward thinking I really don't want to go to any more games because it was too painful.

I watched the Michigan 4th quarter in a bar in New Orleans while at a sales meeting. What a disaster that was.

While #3 was bad at least it helped us get rid of Mason.

Anonymous said...

I was at both #1 and #2. Number one was my freshman year and showed me what was to come from Mason. #2 was worse because I was at the game with my family and my Dad went to Wisconsin. Thank you for putting the vivid images of Wisconsin blocking that punt and Michigan coming back into my mind.

J. Lichty said...

What about the game where Minnesota lost because the ref thought their guy was out of bounds because of how the field was painted. That to me epitomizes the Mason era, not even a chance at good fortune.

Anonymous said...

After completely taking a dive when he left, how can you guys be so happy you lost Mason?

Anonymous said...

I remember watching the Wisconsin game going alright we can win this then everything went downhill. I wasn't able to see the Texas Tech game but I did see the box score and go hey he's finally turning it around till the collapse. Mason was dedicated to mediocrity. He was lucky to find gems in Maroney and Barber. But kept on going after the 3rd and 4th tier talent in Ohio and always wanted to get the Ohio State job. Brewster lost with Glen Mason's players. Brewster at least goes after tops tier recruits and top recruiting classes. Thats why we're happy Mason is gone because with Brewster we're actually getting good talent to compete in the Big Ten, and he's committed to Keeping the best players in state.

FishingMN said...

"After completely taking a dive when he left, how can you guys be so happy you lost Mason?"

What was Barry Alvarez's record his first year at Wisconsin with Don Morton's recruits? The answer is 1-10, 0-8.

I think most people give Mason credit for getting us to where we were but a lot of people were convinced that we were never going to get beyond that point. When you throw in his smug attitude it pushed the debate over the edge for me at least.

In college football there's a kind of chicken and egg thing between winning & recruiting. Those 2 feed off each other and a coach at a middle of the pack type school like Minnesota must overcome one of them, against all odds, to succeed. I know that I am quite encouraged that Brewster might just be able to win enough recruiting battles that will eventually lead to a more consistant winning program.

Anonymous said...

Kinda reaching for the Houston game...first year, new system, they weren't going to be that good anyway.

I'll take any three of the conference losses in '99 over that one. Losing to Ohio at home in 2000 or losing by 31 on the road at Toledo.

Jivas said...

Didn't you guys have another excruciating loss at Penn State? I seem to remember Mason dressed up on a tuxedo because JoePa made a comment that if Minnesota won that Mason would be "invited over to his house for dinner".

Am I remembering this right? Mason in a tux? The team losing an excruciating game, clutching defeat from the jaws of victory?

I'm a Michigan fan, but I remember rooting heavily for you guys that game because it would have made for a great story.

Anonymous said...

1997 when Penn State was number one and the Gophers were headed to 1-7 in the Big Ten, Minnesota led 15-3 in the fourth quarter....lost 16-15. Mason wore a suit coat and tie for the first time ever.

Tom said...

I thought long and hard about that Penn St game and that may have been my #6 on the list. The more I think about it the more it should have been #5.

I also debated about the Purdue loss but that was hard to pin on Mason as there were 2 complete blown calls by the officials. So while it was heart breaking it was hard to fault the Mason staff for that one.