1935 National Champions
Bernie Bierman started his fourth season as the head football coach at Minnesota in 1935. After leading the Golden Gophers to their first national championship in 1934, expectations ran high for both Bierman and the team.
While the Golden Gophers were hurt by the graduation of three All-Americans from the 1934 season, three other players stepped up their play to earn the same honor in 1935. Tackles Ed Widseth (pictured below) and Dick Smith, along with guard Bud Wilkinson earned All-America honors, while quarterback Babe LeVoir and fullback Sheldon Beise joined the All-America threesome on the All-Big Ten team.
Minnesota opened the 1935 season with a schedule mirroring the previous season with games against North Dakota State and Nebraska to start the year. While the outcome was ultimately the same with the Golden Gophers netting two victories, the offensive production was not quite as stunning.
After defeating NDSU 26-6, Minnesota traveled to Lincoln, Neb., to take on the Cornhuskers. Nebraska showed improvement from the previous season when the Golden Gophers rolled over them 20-0. Minnesota headed into the second quarter trailing 7-6, but was able to put another touchdown on the board before the half to lead 12-7. Nebraska’s defense was outstanding the remainder of the game and did not allow the Golden Gophers another touchdown. The Minnesota defense was just as stellar, however, and the Golden Gophers walked away from Lincoln with a 12-7 victory.
While Minnesota’s offense was not putting up the same numbers as 1934, the Golden Gopher defense remained just as stifling. Against Nebraska the defense allowed only five first downs and 110 yards, so it was no surprise when Tulane ran into the same brick wall the next weekend in Minneapolis. The visitors from Louisiana could do nothing right against Minnesota’s superior defense, which held them to a mere 60 yards for the game. Minnesota’s offense was still sputtering, however, as it managed only 183 total yards, all of them on the ground. The Golden Gophers beat Tulane soundly by a score of 20-0, but there was a bit of concern surrounding offensive production heading into the Northwestern game.
The last time the Golden Gophers played Northwestern was in 1933 when the two teams battled to a 0-0 tie. The result in 1935 was much the same and after three quarters Minnesota held a meager 14-13 lead. Northwestern threatened to move into scoring position late in the fourth quarter, but Wilkinson intercepted a Wildcat pass and returned it to the Northwestern 15-yard line. The Golden Gophers went on to score a touchdown and earn a hard-fought 21-13 win.
If there was any concern over the status of Golden Gopher football after the Northwestern game, Bierman’s squad was quick to put it to rest. The Northwestern game was the turning point for Minnesota.
After Northwestern, the Golden Gophers went on to pound opponents by a total score of 115-20 and Beise scored five of his seven touchdowns for the season in those four games. The Minnesota offense seemed to be back on track, but it was tested one last time against the University of Iowa. The Iowa game held a bit more importance for Minnesota than it had in years past. After the 1934 game in which Minnesota had knocked Iowa’s star running back Ozzie Simmons out of the game, Iowa fans were livid and talks of post game mobs buzzed throughout Iowa City. Governor Clyde Herring expressed the same emotion and said, “If the officials stand for any rough tactics like Minnesota used last year, I’m sure the crowd won’t.”
This caused some concern for Minnesotans and Governor Floyd Olson. In attempt to cool tempers on both sides, Olson bet a prize Minnesota hog against a prize Iowa hog as a friendly gesture. So began the tradition of “Floyd of Rosedale,” with the Golden Gophers winning a clean, hard-fought game 13-6 and Olson earning himself a prize Iowa hog.
Minnesota cruised through the remainder of its schedule, beating Michigan, 40-0, and Wisconsin, 33-7. Once again the Golden Gophers had wrapped up an undefeated season and also a national championship by beating the Badgers.
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