Know Your Opponent: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Minnesota Golden Gophers
Hannah Foslien / Associated Press

Welcome to the inaugural addition of Know Your Opponent! Each week during the season we will shed some light on the Buckeye’s opponent, examining their record, traditions, mascot, famous alumni and anything else we think is worth making fun of. This week: The Golden Gophers of Minnesota.

FBS Stats:

  • Points per Game: 190th
  • Points Allowed per Game: 97th
  • Yards per Game: 160th
  • Yards Allowed per Game: 49th

Photo2Mascot: Goldy Gopher

Not too shabby, as far as mascots go. I’m used to an anthropomorphized, walking and exercising poisonous tree nut that wears an old-timey striped athletic jersey and is named after a famous Roman traitor, so Goldy here doesn’t offend me. I do have to question the ring, though. The official Golden Gophers Facebook page states he is showing off his 2011 national championship ring, which makes no sense. Maybe he’s the top gopher mascot of 2011? That seems most likely, but you’d think he would have won that title more recently, given he’s the only gopher college mascot a 30 second internet search could bring up.

I also have to give credit to real-life Goldy for wearing an entire uniform that includes pants. If he dressed like cartoon Goldy, it would be super awkward on the field every week when a man-sized gopher walks out with nothing on but a 1940s-era letterman sweater and matching cleats.

2015 Record: 4-4, 4th in Big Ten West Division

The Gophers lost a heartbreaker on the final play of the game last week to that Team Up North. It was a fun game to watch, and I was hoping for another ending like MSU-TUN, but it did not work out that way due to some egregious clock mismanagement by the Gopher’s interim head coach. It was obvious to all that the QB and the coaches did not realize the clock had started, so their elaborate pre-snap motions and a botched pass left them with two seconds on the half yard line. They failed to sneak it in, of course. Fucking Michigan…anyway.

Other games of note this season include a 10-7 win over Cleveland-area football powerhouse Kent State, from where both my dad and best friend flunked out, and a 27-24 win over Northeast Ohio’s favorite Appalachian binge drinking getaway, Ohio University. Seriously though – including the Buckeyes, this year Minnesota will play the alma mater of every single Willoughby resident.

Coach: Interim head coach and Kingpin-cosplayer, Tracy Claeys

I’m not entirely sure how to pronounce that last name. The “e” makes me want to say “Clayees,” and I didn’t pay enough attention to their game last week to catch the right way, so it will just have to be Clayees. Clayees is from Kansas, not the real south, so I’m wondering about the androgynous first name, a standard dirty south move. See Graham, Lindsey. About that game – if you want to become the official head coach of a Big Ten team, I would suggest having someone watch the clock during the final minute of the fourth quarter when you’re down three points and driving on your opponent. That’s what Urban Meyer would do. He also benched his punter for the kicker due to one bad punt that gave the TUN good field position. Later, the kicker proceeded to hit a bad punt out of the end zone, giving TUN good field position…. Here’s hoping for some more boneheaded mismanagement next week when the Gophers come to Columbus and we’re down JT Barrett. Clayees claimed at the post-game presser that he knew the clock was running on that final play, which was a bad move. Take it from someone with experience – it’s better to declare “I messed up, no excuses,” than “I’m stupid,” which is what you’re telling the world (or those of us watching Minnesota post-game pressers) if you claim you knew what you were doing during an obvious cock-up.


So the real head coach, Jerry Kill, retired last week citing concerns about his ability to fully coach while suffering from epilepsy. Sorry folks, not going to touch this one. Good luck in retirement, coach! Which is too bad, because talk about a powerful, action-oriented name. Jerry Kill – it’s like the twelve-year-old me was asked to come up with a Polish Bond villain, and succeeded spectacularly. If all the football-is-war types and the football-is-more-than-a-game types got together and came up with the ideal coach’s name, it would be Jerry Kill. Now they’re stuck with Tracy Clayees and Golden Gophers – not a very tough sounding combo.

Silly Traditions: Go here for a comprehensive list of Minnesota’s traditions, if you care.

I was hoping for something stereotypically Minnesota, like they trap actual gophers the day of the game and wear them as hats or they tailgate solely with lutefisk and Schlitz, but had to settle for something mundane like they call for Goldy to spin his head, and then he does.

I was going to make fun of the accent, but now that I think about it, it’s really just an extreme version of the typical Midwest accent, which my aunt claims I have and I’m self-conscious about it, so I won’t. I do have to give Goldy some credit for this one, because it’s cool:

Every Halloween game Goldy goes through multiple costume changes, paying homage to various pop culture icons. My personal favorite is the Joker costume, because it’s accurate and I find it amusing to see a college mascot dressed up as a lunatic serial killer. I can’t tell if the top right one is supposed to be Shrek, or Yoda.

Famous Alumni: Not a bad crop of alumni, which includes professional wrestling legends Verne Gagne and Ric Flair. Other notables include legendary folk singer Bob Dylan, football coach and commentator Tony Dungy, actors Henry Fonda and Robert Vaughn, actress Loni Anderson and current WWE superstars Shelton Benjamin and Brock Lesnar.

Brock Lesnar is an animal. This guy has dominated every sport he’s attempted except football, but he did make the Vikings for the preseason. He’s a monster who was once busted with a suitcase full of illegal anabolic steroids; I mean fully legal human growth hormone, so it’s cool. Of all of his incredible feats of physical prowess, this has always been my favorite:

I can watch him botch this shooting star press all day long.

Gophers currently in the NFL (8 total):

  • David Cobb, RB, Titans
  • Eric Decker, WR, Jets
  • MarQueis Gray, TE, Bills
  • Ra’Shede Hageman, DE, Falcons
  • Marcus Sherels, CB, Vikings
  • Matt Spaeth, TE, Steelers
  • Maxx Williams, TE, Ravens
  • Damien Wilson, LB, Cowboys

Not many Gophers currently making their living playing professional football. Standouts include Eric Decker, who I picked up off of waivers in fantasy and is kicking ass for me this year, and Maxx Williams, who I think I remember wondering once who he was when he was getting passes instead of Steve Smith Sr., who I needed to have a great game to keep my ranking. MarQueis Gray played for the Browns during Chudzinski’s famous and fateful year, and as well as playing tight end was the emergency third string quarterback behind Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden. There’s a Browns joke in there somewhere, but this is a Buckeyes column, so we don’t have the time.

Noteworthy Players: Not much to work with here, sorry. Minnesota isn’t a bad team, but they don’t have any truly standout players, Heisman contenders, or the like. You could say their quarterback, Mitch Leidner, is the leader of the team, but that’s the standard line about every QB. Watch any game any weekend and you’ll hear about how great of a leader the QB is, how he always steps up, how he plays through pain, how he overcame adversity, etc. It’s like every announcer across the NCAA gets the same script with blanks in it for inserting whichever QB’s name they got stuck with. He’s Ok.

Prediction: After a slow start, the Buckeyes pull ahead to take the win 36-17. These first quarters with Cardale Jones starting this year have been terrible for my stress levels and overall heart health, and I don’t expect any different this week. Minnesota is a team that gave the vaunted Michigan defense a run for its money, but they also let the Wolverines backup QB eat them up, so it’ll be a fun one. At least it’s a night game, so I’ll be able to be productive during the day Saturday. It’s impressive all you can get done when you don’t start drinking at 3 in the afternoon.

That’s it for this week, folks. Let us know in the comments if there’s anything you want see in next week’s edition that we didn’t include here. Enjoy your weekend, stay safe, and go Buckeyes!