1940 Minnesota Golden Gophers football
AP Poll national champion
Big Ten champion
ConferenceBig Ten Conference
APNo. 1
Record8–0 (6–0 Big Ten)
Head coach
Offensive schemeSingle-wing
MVPBob Paffrath
CaptainBob Bjorklund, Bill Johnson
Home stadiumMemorial Stadium
← 1939
1941 →
1940 Big Ten Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team W   L   T W   L   T
No. 1 Minnesota $ 6 0 0 8 0 0
No. 3 Michigan 3 1 0 7 1 0
No. 8 Northwestern 4 2 0 6 2 0
Ohio State 3 3 0 4 4 0
Wisconsin 3 3 0 4 4 0
Iowa 2 3 0 4 4 0
Indiana 2 3 0 3 5 0
Purdue 1 4 0 2 6 0
Illinois 0 5 0 1 7 0
  • $ – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll

The 1940 Minnesota Golden Gophers football team represented the University of Minnesota in the 1940 Big Ten Conference football season. In their ninth year under head coach Bernie Bierman, the Golden Gophers compiled an undefeated 8–0 record and outscored their opponents by a combined total of 154 to 71.[1]

The team was selected national champion by ten NCAA-designated major selectors in Associated Press, Berryman, Boand, DeVold, Dickinson, Football Research, Houlgate, Litkenhous, National Championship Foundation, Sagarin, Sagarin (ELO-Chess)[2] The team did not play in a bowl game.

Tackle Urban Odson was named an All-American by Liberty.[3] Halfback George Franck was named an All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation, Associated Press, United Press International, Look Magazine and Collier's.[3] Franck placed third in voting for the Heisman Trophy.[4] Franck and Odson were also named All-Big Ten first team.[5]

Quarterback Bob Paffrath received the Team MVP Award.[6]

Total attendance for the season was 234,990, which averaged to 46,998. The season high for attendance was against Michigan.[7]


September 28Washington*W 19–1446,000
October 5Nebraska*
  • Memorial Stadium
  • Minneapolis (rivalry)
W 13–741,000
October 19at No. 15 Ohio StateNo. 7W 13–763,199
October 26IowadaggerNo. 6
  • Memorial Stadium
  • Minneapolis (rivalry)
W 34–662,992
November 2at No. 8 NorthwesternNo. 4W 13–1248,000
November 9No. 3 MichiganNo. 2
W 7–660,481
November 16PurdueNo. 1
  • Memorial Stadium
  • Minneapolis
W 33–630,140
November 23at WisconsinNo. 1W 22–1340,000
  • *Non-conference game
  • daggerHomecoming
  • Rankings from AP Poll released prior to the game

Game summaries


Week 6: Michigan at Minnesota
1 234Total
Michigan 0 600 6
Minnesota 0 700 7

On November 9, 1940, Minnesota played its annual rivalry game with Michigan. The game was the 31st between the programs, with Minnesota having won the previous six games under head coach Bernie Bierman.[8] The 1940 game was played "in the mud and rain" at Memorial Stadium in Minneapolis. Both teams came into the game undefeated with Minnesota ranked #2 and Michigan ranked #3 in the AP Poll. The game was played before a crowd of 63,894 spectators, the largest crowd at a Minnesota home game to that point.[9]

In the first quarter, Michigan drove to the Minnesota one-yard line, but Tom Harmon slipped on fourth down, and the ball went to Minnesota on downs. In the second quarter, Michigan took a 6-0 lead on a touchdown pass from Harmon to Forest Evashevski. Harmon missed "by inches" the kick for extra point. Later in the second quarter, Michigan's Ed Frutig blocked a Minnesota punt that was recovered by Michigan's Reuben Kelto at the Minnesota three-yard line. However, Harmon's pass into the end zone was intercepted, and Minnesota took over at the 20-yard line. On the next play from scrimmage, Minnesota scored on an 80-yard run by Bruce Smith. Joe Mernik kicked the extra point which was the difference in the game, Minnesota winning by a 7-6 score.[9][10]

Michigan outgained Minnesota with 210 yards from scrimmage to 199 for Minnesota and also led with 15 first downs to five for the Gophers.[9] The 1941 Michiganensian opined: "The Wolverines completely outplayed the Bierman charges with fifteen first downs to five . . . but it was to no avail, as Harmon, trying to dive forward with his famous cutback, was continually pulled down by old man mud. . . . Minnesota went on to win the National Championship, while Michigan finished third, but here in Ann Arbor, we'll always believe it was rain and not the Gophers which pushed Michigan out of what would have been its first national championship since 1932."[11]


  1. ^ "1940 Minnesota Golden Gophers Schedule and Results". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved November 1, 2017.
  2. ^ 2018 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records (PDF). National Collegiate Athletic Association. August 2018. p. 122. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Keiser, Jeff (2007), 2007 Media Guide (PDF), p. 179[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Keiser, Jeff (2007), 2007 Media Guide (PDF), p. 182[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ Keiser, Jeff (2007), 2007 Media Guide (PDF), p. 180[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Keiser, Jeff (2007), 2007 Media Guide (PDF), p. 181[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Keiser, Jeff (2007), 2007 Media Guide (PDF), p. 160[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Michigan vs. Minnesota". College Football Data Warehouse. David DeLassus. Archived from the original on May 24, 2015. Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  9. ^ a b c "63,894 See Minnesota Beat Michigan After 80-Yard Run; Smith's Dash Ties Score, Then Mernik Adds Point--Evashevski Counts on Harmon's Pass--First Loss for Wolverines". The New York Times. November 10, 1940.
  10. ^ Arch Ward (November 10, 1940). "Minnesota Stops Michigan, 7-6: Smith's 80-Yard Dash, Mernik's Kick Give Gophers Big Nine Lead". Chicago Tribune. p. 2-1.
  11. ^ 1941 Michiganensian, page 199.