When Minnesota and Northwestern meet at Ryan Field this Saturday, it will be the 87th game between the two schools. The Gophers lead the all-time series by a count of 50-31-5, but the teams have split the last ten meetings. Minnesota and Northwestern are not traditionally atop the Big Ten standings, but they have played a number of classic games over the years. Here are five that stand out:
Oct. 31, 1936 (Evanston, Ill.): No. 3 Northwestern 6, No. 1 Minnesota 0: The Gophers were — perhaps surprisingly — one of college football's most dominant programs in the 1930s. Their dynasty peaked between the years of 1934 and 1936, when they finished No. 1 for three straight years and won three straight national championships in various polls. They came into Evanston on Halloween night in 1936, having won 21 straight games and ranked No. 1 in the nation. Meanwhile, the Wildcats were ranked No. 3 in the country. The offenses accomplished little in the game, failing to score for the first three quarters. But in the fourth quarter, Northwestern's Steve Toth scored a touchdown, putting Northwestern up 6-0. The 'Cats would not relinquish this lead, as they used the victory to earn a No. 1 ranking for the first time in school history. Minnesota, however, finished the year back on top.
November 2, 1940 (Evanston, Ill.): No. 4 Minnesota 13, No. 8 Northwestern 12: Both Minnesota and Northwestern were undefeated coming into this Homecoming showdown. The Gophers had not won in Dyche Stadium in over 10 years. But this was the year Minnesota changed that trend. Northwestern kicker George Benson missed what would have been the game tying extra point as Northwestern lost by one.
November 1, 1941 (Minneapolis, Minn.): No. 1 Minnesota 8, No. 9 Northwestern 7: Thousands of Gopher faithfuls packed into Memorial Stadium to see No. 1 Minnesota take on No. 9 Northwestern on Minnesota's Homecoming weekend. Northwestern quarterback Otto Graham provided the only NU touchdown on the day, hooking up with Bud Hasse for a score. A crucial play came in the second quarter when Wildcat receiver Bob Motl hauled in a huge 73-yard touchdown pass, only to see it called back. This wound up being the game changer as Minnesota would hold Northwestern scoreless the rest of the way. It was the Gophers' second straight one-point victory over the 'Cats. Minnesota was named AP national champion in 1941.
October 28, 2000: (Minneapolis, Minn.): Northwestern 41, Minnesota 35: Down three scores late in the third quarter, it looked as if Northwestern was headed for a second straight disappointing loss after losing to Purdue the week before. However, thanks a furious offensive rally — including four fourth down conversions — the Wildcats tied it with just under a minute and a half to play. After a quick three and out for Minnesota, Northwestern quarterback Zak Kustok heaved up a Hail Mary on fourth down with no time remaining. Thanks to Sam Simmons' catch, the rest is history.
October 13, 2007: (Evanston, Ill.): Northwestern 49, Minnesota 48: Both Northwestern and Minnesota would go on to finish in the cellar of the Big 10 this year, but it didn't stop the two teams from putting on a thrilling contest. Down three scores late in the third quarter (sound familiar?) the Wildcats again roared back to tie the game with just eight seconds left in the fourth. Tied at 35, the teams headed to overtime, trading touchdowns in the first session. In double overtime, Northwestern would score another touchdown, giving them 49 points. Minnesota then scored what looked to be the equalizer, but the Gophers elected to go for two and attempt to win the game. The conversion failed and Northwestern escaped 49-48.