2006 Tech Game Changed U History
The Gophers have their rematch against Texas Tech tonight in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston. Even the casual Gophers fan recalls the first game played between the two schools—the 44-41 Insight Bowl overtime win by Tech on December 29, 2006 featuring the largest comeback by one team in bowl game history.
“We (Gophers fans) were all happy at halftime,” former Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi told Sports Headliners on Wednesday.
Minnesota led the Red Raiders 35-7 after two quarters. The Gophers scored first in the third quarter, using a 20-yard field goal to create a presumably safe 38-7 lead. Trailing 38-14 going into the fourth quarter, Tech outscored Minnesota 24-0 in the period and sent the game into overtime.
The pass-happy Red Raiders exploited Minnesota’s pass prevent defense late in the game, and the comeback is still a nightmare for Gophers fans who witnessed other painful meltdowns during the Glen Mason coaching era. Maturi admitted the game’s outcome was a factor in firing Mason soon after the 10-year coach arrived back in Minneapolis.
“Had we won the game, things may have been different,” Maturi said. “There was a lot of unhappiness and unrest (with the program). Lots of factors going into the decision. We were in need of energy to help with tickets and the (new) stadium.”
The Gophers’ record in 2006 was 6-7 including 3-5 in the Big Ten Conference. Following a breakout year of 10-3 in 2003, the Gophers had slipped to consecutive 7-5 seasons before the even more difficult 2006 season. Mason, whose first season at Minnesota was in 1997, had a career record of 32-48 in Big Ten games and criticism of the program had been developing for awhile before his dismissal. Maturi was concerned about selling tickets to games in 2007 and developing enthusiasm for the new on-campus stadium that would open in 2009.
Maturi said Mason did a “good job” overall as Gophers coach. “We’re not better now than then on the field,” Maturi said. “I do feel the future is bright with coach (Jerry) Kill.”
The Gophers, in their second year under Kill, are about a two touchdown underdog to the Red Raiders who are still a pass-happy bunch. The Gophers’ 2012 pass defense is better than the 2006 version, and Kill might have some surprises for the Red Raiders offensively.
Win or lose, it’s hard to imagine a more painful ending for Minnesota followers than in 2006. The Tech defeat started a current streak of four consecutive bowl game losses by the Gophers.
Maturi is a Notre Dame graduate but doesn’t plan to attend the Irish’s national championship game against Alabama on January 7 in suburban Miami. He will cheer on both the Irish and Gophers from home in Minneapolis.
Maturi said since retiring as Gophers athletic director earlier this year he turned down offers from other schools to work full time but wouldn’t identify the interested parties.
The 9-6 Vikings, with one game remaining, have won six more games than last season when the record was 3-13. That improvement matches the franchise record of 1998 when the Vikings pushed their win total to 15 after winning nine games in 1997.
If the Vikings can defeat the Packers on Sunday at Mall of America Field, they will finish with a 7-1 home record—the best in Minneapolis since 2009 when Minnesota was also 8-0.
Adrian Peterson not only leads the NFL in rushing with 1,898 yards, but the Vikings have a team total of 2,417 and need 208 more yards to break the franchise record of 2,624 set in 2007.
Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave talking about Peterson who could break Eric Dickerson’s single season NFL rushing record of 2,105 yards on Sunday: “He’s just so determined. You can see it in his eyes, not only on game day but throughout the week in his preparation. He’s our pacesetter. …”
Former Wolves players Wes Johnson and Michael Beasley, both of whom left Minnesota after last season, have been unimpressive playing for the Suns team that comes to Target Center for a game tomorrow night. Johnson has participated in only 12 of 29 games, averaging 5.9 minutes per game and 2.3 points while making 33 percent of his field goals.
Beasley has started 20 games and been on court in eight more but is only playing 24.4 minutes per game. He’s averaging 10.5 points per game while making .378 percent of his field goals.