Minnesota vs. Nebraska: 10 things every fan needs to know about this rivalry
Minnesota and Nebraska formed a unique rivalry back in 2014. Although the series dates to the year 1900, the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy has cast the matchup in a whole new light.
Starting with Twitter banter between Goldy Gopher and Faux Pelini, the trophy was created as a prize for the winner. The teams have played for the “broken chair” each year, and in 2017 it morphed into a fundraiser for Nebraska’s Team Jack Foundation and Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital.
The Minnesota vs. Nebraska rivalry has deeper roots than most would imagine. Let’s dive into the history and take a look at 10 things fans on both sides should know.
1. 61 total meetings
For schools that have been in the same conference just 12 years, there have been many meetings between the programs. Several memorable ones as well (more on those in a bit).
The first matchup came in 1900 with Minnesota winning 20-12 in Lincoln. The schools would meet 13 straight years following, with Nebraska winning just once.
The Gophers lead the series 35-25-2.
2. Gophers dominated the early years
The series was clearly one-sided early on. From 1900-60, Minnesota took a 29-6-2 lead. The Gophers were so dominant, they handed Nebraska its worst home loss ever in 1945, winning 61-7.
Nebraska never won 2 in a row during the span. And Minnesota strung together its longest win streak of the series, 10 in a row from 1940-49.
3. Huskers have upper hand since 1960
With the hiring of Bob Devaney from Wyoming in 1962, Nebraska completely turned around its football fortunes.
Starting in 1963, the Huskers put together their longest winning streak (16) in the series. Devaney coached in 8 of the first 10 wins, including 2 shutouts. Nebraska was ranked in the top 20 in 14 of the 16 wins. The tide of the series had shifted.
After Tom Osborne took over in 1973, Nebraska continued to dominate. Osborne won all 8 of his matchups with Goldy, with no game being decided by less than 31 points.
Since 1960, Nebraska has won 19 of the 25 meetings.
4. 1983 game, one to remember
Many long-time observers of the rivalry recall the Sept. 17, 1983 game in Minneapolis. It was as lopsided an affair as there’s ever been as Nebraska crushed the Gophers 84-13. The Huskers could have named the score, as all 60 players on the travel roster entered the game by the 3rd period.
Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier and Nebraska’s high-octane offense were unstoppable. Rozier rushed for 196 yards and 3 TDs, while the Huskers rolled up over 700 yards (600 on the ground).
Minnesota suffered through a 1-10 season, while Nebraska would lose a heartbreaker, 31-30 to Miami in the Orange Bowl, costing Osborne his 1st national title after a failed 2-point conversion attempt.
5. Back-to-back shutouts in 1989-90
A pair of September games in 1989-90 did not end well for the Gophers. Nebraska won both — 48-0 and 56-0. The first one in Minneapolis, the next in Lincoln.
Current NU head coach Mickey Joseph quarterbacked the 1990 win. Joseph had arguably his best game as a Husker to that point, throwing for 117 yards and 2 TDs while rushing for 2 more scores. The Huskers rolled up 564 yards of offense.
Granted, Nebraska was ranked No. 3 and No. 8 those years, but for Minnesota to go 2 straight years without scoring a point was embarrassing. The series would not resume until Nebraska joined the B1G in 2011.
6. 2013 meeting flipped the script
The teams met Oct. 26, 2013 in Minneapolis. The Huskers had won 16 in a row in the series and entered as 10-point favorites.
Bo Pelini’s 24th-ranked Huskers bolted to a quick 10-0 lead, but from that point on, and pretty much ever since, Minnesota turned the tide. Gophers QB Phillip Nelson threw for 152 yards and a TD, while rushing for 55 more and 2 scores, in a 34-23 win.
The triumph energized the fan base in Dinkytown and turned up the heat on Pelini as Nebraska’s coach. It can be argued that this game started a downhill slide for the Cornhuskers.
7. Gophers continue to hold trophy
The Bits of Broken Chair trophy has resided in Minneapolis since 2019. Minnesota has won 3 straight and 4 of the past 5 meetings. It turned a tad 1-sided as PJ Fleck went 3-1 against Scott Frost.
Frost won his first game at Nebraska over Fleck, 53-28 in 2018. NU quarterback Adrian Martinez had a day.
Ever since, the Gophers have been the more prepared (and physical) team. The 34-7 beatdown in 2019 wasn’t even as close as the score indicates. The Huskers were outclassed from the onset. A pair of 7-point Minnesota wins have occurred the past 2 seasons.
8. Joseph’s first crack at Goldy
The Gophers enter Saturday’s tilt (Nov. 5, 2022) as high as 15-point favorites at some sportsbooks, possibly the most they’ve been favored ever in the rivalry.
Joseph is trying to keep the Nebraska ship afloat. Casey Thompson is doubtful with an arm injury. The offensive line is in shambles. Minnesota has clear advantages in most areas.
Mo Ibrahim has gone over 100 yards rushing each game he’s played over multiple seasons. The Huskers’ defense will have their hands full slowing him down. In order for Nebraska to end its current 3-game skid vs. Fleck, Joseph will have to be at his best scheming-wise. Get his playmakers in favorable matchups. Have success running the ball.
Joseph dominated Minnesota in 1990 as a player. It’ll be a much tougher task as the interim coach.
9. Winning team has dominated with defense
During Minnesota’s 10-game win streak in the 1940s, the Gophers shut out Nebraska on 3 occasions and never allowed more than 13 points. Suffocating defense was a trait of those Minnesota teams.
Meanwhile, during Nebraska’s 16-game streak, the Huskers allowed more than 14 points just once. Five times the Blackshirts put up a goose egg while shutting down the Gophers. The Huskers had some of their most dominant performances — not only offensively but defensively — during those wins.
10. Most wins by coaches
Both Devaney and Osborne are tied with 8 wins each by Nebraska head coaches.
Bernie Bierman, who served as Minnesota coach during 2 stints in the 1930s and 40s, has 11 wins over the Huskers. Henry L. Williams, who was at the helm from 1900-21, beat Nebraska 10 times. You have to go back decades to find Minnesota coaches who strung together success against NU.
But the current version of Minnesota under Fleck has been impressive. Minnesota could easily continue its run of recent success. And the folks in Dinkytown would be thrilled to keep the funky Broken Chair another season.