Minnesota Bowl Eligible Could Play New Year’s Day
The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated Northwestern on the road last Saturday 41-14. They've secured bowl eligibility.
Before COVID I had fun following the Gophers to Florida in 2016 and San Diego in 2017.
I've always dreamed of seeing the Rose Bowl so if the Gophers make it I plan on heading west for a New Year's Day at the grandaddy of all Bowl games.
Projections right now for the Gophers by the experts of such things have the greatest possibilities being the Music City Bowl in Nashville (I've attended two of these games when the Gophers were there) and the Las Vegas Bowl.
Both cities are fun places to travel with a lot to do and see.
The Rose Bowl is not out of the question. Currently Minnesota has the lead in the Big Ten West with huge games coming up against Iowa and Wisconsin.
If Minnesota wins the overall title they most assuredly would go to Pasadena and I believe the scenario is the same if they win the West Division. With a couple losses the National Championship is out of the question unless a lot of the top teams lose down the stretch.
The Golden Gophers last appearance in the Rose Bowl came New Year's Day 1962 when they defeated UCLA 21-3. They were runner-up in in the Big Ten that season but Ohio State declined the invitation to play.
A Faculty Committee at Ohio State voted to decline the invitation after the school's Athletic Council voted in favor.
Minnesota lost at the Rose Bowl as the top team in the country the previous year 17-7 to Washington. With the no repeat rule in the Big Ten they would not have been eligible to play in the Rose Bowl had they won the conference title in 1961.
Sandy Stephens led Minnesota to the win with two rushing touchdowns. The first All-American African American quarterback was also the first African American to receive the MVP Award in the Rose Bowl.
Stephens rushed 12 times for 46 yards. He was 7 of 11 passing for 75 yards, so accounted for 121 of the team's 297 total yards.
UCLA was held to 8 total first downs (Minnesota tallied 21) and 107 total yards (55 rushing, 52 passing). The Bruins were 5 of 8 passing in the game.
Obviously a different kind of game was played in those days.
Stephens was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2011. Unfortunately he wasn't there. Stephens died from a heart attack at the age of 59, June 6, 2000 in Bloomington, Mn.
He was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and grew up in Uniontown, Pa.
A four sport athlete in high school Stephens not only played quarterback for the Gophers but also defensive back, returned kicks and punted.
The Golden Gophers ran a one platoon system so players went both ways.
After college he played in the Canadian Football League for Montreal and Toronto.
Stephens was planning to join the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent but suffered a gruesome car accident that left him without use of his legs. After two years of rehabilitation he attempted to make the Kansas City Chiefs roster and was the last man cut from their active roster in 1967.
Stephens was drafted very high by both the National Football League and American Football League. Plans however were not to play him at quarterback so he opted to go north.
Former Golden Gophers quarterback Tony Dungy has publicly stated many times Stephens was his inspiration to come to the University of Minnesota.
When Dungy was on a visit to the U of M at age 17 he met Stephenson and decided he wanted to follow him to play the quarterback position.
After Dungy graduated from college he was offered to play in the NFL but not at quarterback.
The first African-American Head Coach to lead a NFL team to a Super Bowl victory could have gone north of the border also, but decided he wanted to play in the NFL so he decided to switch to safety.
Stephens was 6'0 215 pounds.
The 1961 Rose Bowl was the first national color television broadcast of a college football game.
Murray Warmath was the Head Coach at Minnesota.
There are some awesome photos here.
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