Homecoming football trivia

October 14, 2016
The Mardi Gras Homecoming button from 1941.

Seventy-five years ago U of M students celebrated a Mardi Gras Homecoming during a football season that would culminate in a sixth national championship. The Gophers squeaked by Northwestern that day 8-7 in front of more than 64,000 fans at Memorial Stadium. Button courtesy University of Minnesota Archives.

Seven is a good number for Minnesota football. It’s the number of national championships won by the Golden Gophers over the years, dating back to the first title in 1904. (Yes, there have actually been seven!) Seven is also the number of seasons in the bank at the new stadium, as well as the number worn by fifth-year senior quarterback Mitch Leidner.

In honor of all of that, here are seven bits of Minnesota homecoming football trivia.

1. Wisconsin falls first. The first homecoming game was against Wisconsin back in 1914, a game the Gophers won 14-3 in front of 17,000 fans at Greater Northrop Field. (Turns out we were also Wisconsin’s first homecoming opponent in 1911.)

2. The streak is broken. Starting in 1960 (the season the Gophers last won the national championship in football), the Gophers scheduled a Big Ten opponent for homecoming 55 straight years. That streak was broken last year when Minnesota’s took on Ohio University from the Mid-American Conference. The Gophers prevailed in a squeaker, 27-24.

3. The Golden years. Minnesota went 8-2 in its homecoming games in both the 1950s and ’60s.

4. Seeing purple. Northwestern has been Minnesota’s most common homecoming opponent. The two teams have squared off 18 times (five since 2000), and the “series” is now squared at 8-8, with two ties.

5. Who ‘loves’ Iowa? If we’re looking for a historically beatable opponent, Iowa would be the default choice. The Gophers are a whopping 10-3 against the Hawkeyes in homecoming contests, easily the best success rate among teams they’ve played more than once.

6. Homecoming success. Minnesota is 56-36-3 overall in homecoming games, including 3-4 at TCF Bank Stadium.

7. A new opponent. The matchup against Rutgers on Saturday is Minnesota’s seventh game of the season. It’s also the Gophers’ first-ever meeting with the Scarlet Knights, who joined the Big Ten in 2014. Game time is 11 a.m.