Photo courtesy of TipTop25
During Bernie Bierman’s 10-year tenure as Minnesota head coach, the Golden Gophers were college football’s premier power. Big games were commonplace.
One of those took place on this day 80 years ago. In the end, a second-quarter touchdown was all Minnesota needed in a 7-0 victory over Michigan in a top-3 match-up.
Setting the Stage
The reigning national champion, Minnesota was 4-0 and riding a 12-game winning streak as it arrived at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 25, 1941. Minnesota was ranked No. 1 in the country and had won seven straight over Michigan. The year prior, the Golden Gophers had handed Michigan its only loss of the season.
Michigan also came in undefeated with a record of 4-0. Ranked third in the country, Michigan was coming off a 14-7 road win over No. 5 Northwestern. Nearly 86,000 packed the stadium in Ann Arbor — an attendance record at the time.
As for the game itself, it featured only one score. That came in the second quarter.
Although he didn’t score the touchdown, eventual Heisman Trophy winner Bruce Smith played a key role in getting Minnesota in the end zone. After a long punt from Smith backed Michigan up deep, he connected with Herman Frickey on a 45-yard connection to put the ball at the Michigan 5-yard-line.
Three plays later, Frickey powered his way into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown. Michigan would threaten on the ensuing drive, thanks to a 37-yard completion from Tom Kuzma to Bob Sweiger that put the ball at the Minnesota 5-yard-line. Two plays later however, Bob Westfall fumbled and Minnesota recovered.
Both teams would have red zone opportunities slip through their fingers in the second half. Minnesota marched inside the Michigan red zone in the third quarter, but came away with no points. Late in the game, Michigan would again reach the 5-yard-line, but Kuzma’s pass toward the goal line slipped out of the hands of Harlin Fraumann and the Wolverines came up empty.
Michigan finished with 135 yards on the ground in the loss. Minnesota rushed for 179 yards in the victory.
For Michigan, the loss would serve as its only defeat of the season. The Wolverines bounced back to shut out both Illinois and Columbia before tying Ohio State in the regular season finale to finish 6-1-1. Michigan finished ranked fifth in the final polls.
In what would be Bierman’s final season, Minnesota would run the table to finish 8-0 and claim a second straight national championship and fifth in eight seasons. The highest ranked team the Golden Gophers defeated that season was Michigan. They did so on this day eight decades ago.