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
#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)
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
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.