Blog: Memorial Stadium Memories
On Sept. 12, 2009, the Golden Gophers will return to campus and play outside for the first time since Nov. 21, 1981. Leading up to the debut of TCF Bank Stadium, Gophersports.com will take a look back at some memorable moments from Memorial Stadium. This week, we'll review the Gophers' upset of No. 10 USC in less than ideal weather conditions in 1955.
Do you have a favorite memory? Share it with Gophersports.com and we'll post a few throughout the summer.
Oct. 29, 1955 - Minnesota Stuns No. 10 USC, 25-19
1955 would be considered a down season for Golden Gopher football. A year removed from finishing 7-2 and ranked 20th in the nation’s final poll, Murray Warmath’s team opened the season with a 30-0 loss to Washington at Memorial Stadium. That game was followed by three more losses in the next four contests, including a 14-13 heartbreaker against top-ranked Michigan.
Standing at 1-4, few in the Twin Cities could’ve imagined what would occur in the friendly confines on Oct. 29, 1955 as 10th-ranked USC rolled in to town. The Trojans were coming off a 33-21 victory over No. 6 Wisconsin and a 33-6 shellacking of Cal in Berkeley.
Of course, the Trojans probably weren’t anticipating temperatures in the mid-30s with a sleet/snow mix and 20 mile an hour winds, but that’s just what the two teams and the 64,047 Maroon and Gold faithful would have to endure.
The sloppy first half matched the conditions as the Golden Gophers tallied the only points on a 14-yard run by Bob Schultz in the waning moments of the first quarter. The touchdown came after a blocked punt deep in USC territory.
While the two teams stumbled and fumbled their way through the first 30 minutes, the second half inexplicably turned into a shootout. Following another block of a Trojan punt, Dick Borstad scored the first of his two touchdowns from three yards out to give Minnesota a 12-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Golden Gophers got a first-hand look at the athleticism of the Men of Troy. Gordon Duvall fielded the kick at his 27 and returned it untouched up the sidelines. In keeping with the norm, the Trojans missed the conversion and trailed 12-6.
Moments later, the Golden Gophers would respond with a big play of their own. While Minnesota was able to pound the ball through the tackles against the Trojan defense, quarterback Don Swanson called his own number and raced 65 yards to pay dirt and with the first successful PAT of the game, the Golden Gophers held a 19-6 lead (VIDEO: WATCH SWANSON'S RUN).
USC managed just 137 yards of total offense in the contest, but racked up 318 yards on returns, highlighted by Ernie Merk’s 93-yard punt return to close out the third frame and cut the lead to 19-12.
With Minnesota now facing the wind to start the fourth quarter, the Golden Gopher defense picked up its third fumble of the game. Captain Michael Falls sacked Trojan QB Ells Kissinger and Minnesota took over on USC’s 27-yard line. Five rushes later, Borstad picked up his second TD and increased the lead to 25-12.
It was at this point the weather began to clear and Kissinger went to work. USC drove 74 yards on 16 plays, including five passes from Kissinger to Chuck Leimbach, the last one resulting in a touchdown.
Leading 25-19, the Golden Gophers lost their second fumble of the game with just 56 seconds left in regulation. With the wind behind them, Kissinger and the Trojans were in perfect position to tie the game or possibly win it.
Fortunately for Minnesota, Kissinger’s pass sailed high on second down and into the arms of Swanson and the upset was sealed.
Borstad finished the game with 104 yards rushing and two scores, while Swanson finished with 94 yards on seven carries with a touchdown.
Minnesota played a total of just 24 players in the game.
The Golden Gophers attempted just two passes in the contest. Both were incomplete.
The Big Ten and Pac 10 played seven times during the regular season in 1955. The Pac 10 won four of those seven contests.
Dick Larson had the play of the game after Minnesota took a 6-0 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Jon Arnett was in the clear and appeared destined to knot the game. Golden Gopher Dick Larson was blocked on the sideline, but circled back and chased down the speedy Arnett at the 25-yard line. A couple plays later, Minnesota intercepted a Trojan pass in the end zone.
This was Minnesota’s only victory against USC in the all-time series. The Trojans are 4-1-1 against the Golden Gophers. The two teams tied 10 years later in 1965, while USC claimed wins in 1953, 1968, 1979 and 1980.
So much for cupcakes: USC played Texas, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Notre Dame during the non-conference portion of its schedule. The Golden Gophers faced the Trojans and Washington Huskies.
Minnesota rebounded from its 3-6 record during the 1955 season. The Golden Gophers finished ninth in the country with a 6-1-2 record in 1956.
The two teams will resume the series with a home-and-home beginning in 2010 as the Trojans come to Minneapolis. The two teams will meet in Los Angeles in 2011.
Minnesota 25, No. 10 USC 19