1934 National Champions
The Golden Gopher football program is one built strongly on tradition. After winning the first-ever Big Nine team title in 1900 and outscoring opponents by an incredible 618-12 margin in 1903, the University of Minnesota football team finally won its first national championship in 1934.
Under the leadership of third-year coach Bernie Bierman, the Golden Gophers averaged 33.7 points during the 1934 campaign, relying heavily on a potent running attack. The running game accounted for nearly 295 of the 325 yards the Maroon and Gold averaged each game. The Golden Gophers were equally productive on the defensive side of the ball, shutting-out four of their eight opponents, while holding them to a meager 4.7 points and 103 yards per game.
Three players led Minnesota while earning All-America honors Francis "Pug" Lund (pictured right), Bill Bevan and Butch Larson, who earned the honor for a second straight year. Larson became only the third Golden Gopher to earn All-America status for two straight years, and is among eight players in Minnesota history to earn such a distinction. In addition to Lund, Bevan and Larson, the Golden Gophers featured three more All-Big Ten players. Perhaps the biggest key to Minnesota's success, however, was a running attack which saw eight different players score touchdowns during the season, led by Stan Kostka with nine touchdowns, including a four-touchdown game.
The talented Golden Gopher team cruised through the first two games of the season with a 56-12 pounding of North Dakota State and a 20-0 victory over Nebraska.
After two weeks of rest, Minnesota looked flat against the Pittsburgh Panthers. They trailed 7-0 after three quarters and were destroyed in nearly every statistical category. The Golden Gophers' hopes for a perfect season were fading. Minnesota was down, but they were not beaten. In the fourth quarter, Larson took the game over by recovering a fumble which led to a touchdown. On the very next series, he threw the winning pass into the end zone. Minnesota's dream for a title refused to die.
The following weekend, the Golden Gophers rebounded in style by crushing the rival Iowa Hawkeyes in Iowa City, Iowa, 48-12. Head Coach Bernie Bierman couldn't have been happier with his team's reaction to their sub-par performance against Pittsburgh. The Golden Gophers held the Hawkeyes to 129 total yards. Minnesota, on the other hand, had little problem moving the ball as they racked up an astounding 514 yards on offense, all of them coming from the running game. Minnesota was led by the exceptional performance of Kostka, who had another outstanding game, scoring three touchdowns, as well as Julius Alfonse, who rushed for two scores.
After dismantling Iowa, Minnesota was still eager to get back on the field. The next opponent was Michigan, and the Golden Gophers sought revenge. They had not brought the Little Brown Jug back to Memorial Stadium since 1927. Michigan came into Minneapolis sporting a 1-3 record and as the game progressed, proved that a vast talent gap existed between the two teams. Minnesota breezed by the Wolverines 34-0 and the Golden Gopher defense continued to impress crowds as they held Michigan scoreless on a mere 56 total yards for the game. In the meantime, the Maroon and Gold running attack never lost a step as five different players scored touchdowns.
The Golden Gophers continued to roll over opponents in the ensuing weeks, beating Indiana 30-0 and Chicago 35-7. Indiana gained a grand total of zero yards against the smothering Minnesota defense, while Chicago was able to manage 82 yards. With four solid games since the Pittsburgh scare, Bierman and the Golden Gophers had every right to be confident about their chances of winning a conference and national championship heading into Wisconsin.
The Badgers were not a high-scoring team, nor did they allow teams many touchdowns. On this day, however, the Golden Gophers flexed their muscle and scored 34 points against a defense that had only allowed 50 previously. With the victory over Wisconsin, Minnesota wrapped up its perfect season and first national championship.