Every week, the Big Ten Blog will break down one classic game from the Big Ten's long, storied history. Today, we're going back to 2003 to watch every underdog's nightmare unfold.
Glen Mason was an amazing coach. We know that's not a popular opinion and his coaching career ended rather unceremoniously after he was fired in favor of Tim Brewster (which is like trading the Mutt Cutts van for a moped), but he was indisputably an amazing coach. The proof: Glen Mason had Asad Abdul-Khaliq as his quarterback and he won 10 games in 2003.
And despite having Abdul-Khaliq at quarterback, Minnesota was even 6-0 coming into a showdown with Michigan at the Metrodome on October 10, 2003. The teams appeared to be going in different directions. Minnesota hadn't started a season 6-0 since 1960 and had vaulted to 13th in the rankings.
Michigan, meanwhile, had just lost its second straight game of the season, this one a mistake-filled 30-27 loss to Iowa. Michigan had tumbled to 19th in the polls, a far cry from its Top 5 status in the first few weeks of the season.
Still, Michigan was a 1.5-point favorite in the game, which made some sense because this was still Michigan we were talking about, a team that had won its last 14 games (and 22 of the last 23) against Minnesota—and most of those wins weren't close. If Minnesota was going to snap that streak, this was as good an opportunity as any.
And sure enough, Minnesota came out firing. Tailback tandem Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney (yeah, they were in the same backfield for Minnesota) each rushed for a touchdown in the first half while Michigan's offense sputtered its way to zero points, and the third quarter was scarcely any better for the Wolverines.
John Navarre finally got his men on the board with a 36-yard score to Steve Breaston, but Minnesota answered with another Maroney TD, and a Navarre interception late in the quarter gave Minnesota only 27 yards to go for another TD. They needed only four snaps to make it happen. And just like that, with seconds left in the third quarter, it was 28-7 Minnesota, dominating the Wolverines and perhaps ushering in a new era in Big Ten football.
Then again, it was still Minnesota—and all the Gopher fans knew it.
Let's pick it up from there, but instead of talking through the game, we'll address key plays and the corresponding level of dread Minnesota fans were feeling about the game at that point. Every underdog knows the collapse, and spoiler alert: this was one hell of a collapse.
15:00, 4th quarter; Minnesota 28, Michigan 7: Fourth quarter begins
Dread Level 3.7: Feeling good, but eager to see the clock running.
14:24, 4th quarter; Minnesota 28, Michigan 14: Navarre goes 5-5 for 45 yards and a TD in next 36 seconds, Michigan within 14 with basically a whole quarter left
Dread Level 5.1: Pretty sure Minnesota will have to score again in this fourth quarter.
13:30, 4th quarter; Minnesota 28, Michigan 21: Abdul-Khaliq whirls out of sack attempt, short-arms pass toward the sideline, pass is picked off and returned for a touchdown
Dread Level 7.9: Brakes not responding. Oh God, Michigan's going to win by 14, aren't they?
11:11, 4th quarter; Minnesota 35, Michigan 21: Abdul-Khaliq finds a seam on 3rd and 1 and torches the world for a 52-yard score
Dread Level 4.8: Realizing you left cell phone charger at home as you're sitting in an airport, it's just a three-day trip though, not the end of the world, right?
10:18, 4th quarter; Minnesota 35, Michigan 28: Navarre bombs it to Braylon Edwards for 52-yard TD
Dread Level 8.3: Smelling alcohol on your OB/GYN's breath and it's Tuesday afternoon
8:27, 4th quarter; Minnesota 35, Michigan 28: Minnesota forced to punt after rush-rush-pass sequence fails predictably
Dread Level 8.8: Smoke alarm going off somewhere in the house at 3 in the morning
5:48, 4th quarter; Minnesota 35, Michigan 35: Minnesota can't even force a 3rd down as Michigan burns down the field to tie game
Dread Level 9.1: Tornado sirens wailing and you have no basement
4:23, 4th quarter; Minnesota 35, Michigan 35: 3-and-out after rush-rush-pass fails again
Dread Level 9.4: "What do you mean, you're pregnant? Are you sure it's mine?"
3:29, 4th quarter; Minnesota 35, Michigan 35: 4th and inches near midfield and Michigan's going for it
Dread Level 7.2: Pulling on reserve parachute cord
3:27, 4th quarter; Minnesota 35, Michigan 35: Navarre converts 4th down on QB sneak
Dread Level 9.6: Confetti flies out of reserve chute pocket
2:06, 4th quarter; Minnesota 35, Michigan 35: Navarre converts 3rd and 9 to 22-yard line with another damn screen pass to Perry
Dread Level 9.8: Fetal position, all hope lost
0:47, 4th quarter; Michigan 38, Minnesota 35: Garrett Rivas kicks 33-yard field goal to give Michigan lead
Dread Level 9.9: Toonces driving the car off the cliff
0:18, 4th quarter; Michigan 38, Minnesota 35: Abdul-Khaliq throws Hail Mary from own 35, Michigan intercepts
Dread Level 10.0: Blackout, loss of bowels, temporary and violent insanity, all major symptoms of rabies, high risk of arson
Things haven't really gotten better for the Gophers in the nine years since then, either.