As I sit here in the office on Jan. 2, it feels like New Year's Day. There are four bowl games (that are normally played on Jan. 1) on television right now. Of course, the end of one year and the beginning of another are prime times for Best Of and Top Ten lists, etc.
Things are no different here in the Golden Gopher Football Blog. I talked with Voice of the Gophers Mike Grimm last week about his favorite radio calls of the 2011 Gopher Football season. We decided a top 10 could be an interesting blog post and be something fun for people to listen to and enjoy some of these moments one more time.
So, even though we're now two days into 2012, we proudly present Grimm's list of his top 10 favorite radio calls from the 2011 Gopher Football season:
10. MarQueis Gray's Touchdown vs. Illinois
MarQueis Gray put the finishing touches on a 27-7 victory over Illinois in the season finale with this 14-yard touchdown run. Gray rushed for 167 yards and two scores, while also passing for a touchdown vs. the Illini.
9. Coach Kill's First Big Ten Win vs. Iowa
MarQueis Gray rushed for a first down, giving Minnesota the opportunity to kneel out the clock as the Gophers knocked off Iowa for the second straight season. The win was Minnesota's first in Big Ten play under head coach Jerry Kill. It also kept Floyd of Rosedale at home in Minneapolis for a second consecutive year.#9: Game-Ending Call vs. Iowa
8. Brandon Green TD vs. USC
Minnesota trailed USC 19-3 at halftime in the season-opener at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Gophers scored in the third quarter to make it 19-10, but starting quarterback MarQueis Gray was unable to play the fourth quarter due to cramps. True freshman Max Shortell, playing in his first collegiate game, came on in relief and engineered a scoring drive midway through the fourth quarter to pull Minnesota within two, 19-17. The Gophers were unable to pull off the comeback, but Shortell's fourth-quarter TD pass to Brandon Green was one of the more exciting plays of 2011.
#7: Bennett's TD Return
7. Duane Bennett Kickoff Return vs. Wisconsin
Minnesota trailed eventual Big Ten Champion Wisconsin 28-6 at halftime. But the Gophers got a big boost to start the second half, when senior Duane Bennett returned the kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown to pull Minnesota back within two scores.
6. Coach Kill's First Minnesota Victory vs. Miami (Ohio)
After a rough start to the season, including losses to USC and New Mexico State, Minnesota got in the Win column on Sept. 16, when Kim Royston knocked down a Miami (Ohio) pass in the end zone as time expired to secure a 29-23 victory and give head coach Jerry Kill his first win as the head coach of the Golden Gophers.
5. Da'Jon McKnight's Third TD vs. Michigan State
McKnight finished the day against the Spartans with nine receptions for 174 yards and three touchdowns, nearly leading the Gophers to an upset victory over then-No. 15 Michigan State. For McKnight, he became the only player in Gopher history to have two three-touchdown receiving days in his career. He also had three scores in 2010 vs. Penn State on Oct. 23, 2010.
#4: McKnight's 2nd TD at MSU
4. Da'Jon McKnight's Second TD vs. Michigan State
Da'Jon McKnight spotted Minnesota to a 7-0 lead early in the game against eventual Leaders Division champs Michigan State. And that was just the beginning of a huge day for McKnight. Here, his second score of the day gave the Gophers a 14-7 lead.
3. Duane Bennett Blocked Punt/TD vs. Miami (Ohio)
In the Gophers' first victory of the season, it was a special teams play by senior running back Duane Bennett that sealed the victory for Minnesota. With Minnesota leading 23-16 early in the fourth quarter, the Redhawks were forced to punt. Bennett sprung through Miami protection, blocked the punt, pulled it out of the air at the 4-yard line and took it into the end zone to give the Gophers a two-touchdown cushion, which ended up being the final margin of victory. This play earned Bennett a Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week award.
#2: Henderson's Play vs. Iowa
2. Kyle Henderson Sack/Forced Fumble vs. Iowa
Gopher fans will remember the onside kick, MarQueis Gray's game-winning touchdown run (more on that later) or Duane Bennett's strong running with 101 yards and a score. But a defensive play made it all possible. Iowa led 14-7 and was knocking at the door with a third-and-4 at the Minnesota 14-yard line. But Kyle Henderson came on a corner blitz, hit Iowa QB James Vandenberg on the blind side and caused a fumble. The fumble was recovered by Brandon Kirksey and returned out near midfield. The Gophers took advantage of the turnover for a field goal to make it 14-10 instead of 21-7 and keep Minnesota in the game.
#1: Gray's Game-Winning TD vs. Iowa
1. MarQueis Gray Game-Winning TD vs. Iowa
Iowa led 21-10 early in the fourth quarter. But the Gophers scored with 8:22 remaining to make it 21-16. Coach Kill then dialed up an onside kick the Gophers had been working on the entire season. Jordan Wettstein hit it perfectly and Minnesota recovered. 12 plays and nearly six minutes later, Gray gave the Gophers a 22-21 lead on a three-yard run on fourth-and-goal. The Gopher defense held to secure the victory, but Gray's fourth-down scamper was perhaps the biggest play of the 2011 season.