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Dave Mona’s Vignettes: USC

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THERE’S BEEN A LOT WRITTEN AND SAID ABOUT HOW THE GOPHERS LET THE MEMORIAL STADIUM GRASS GROW TO SLOW DOWN RUNNING BACK O.J. SIMPSON WHEN THESE TEAMS MET SOME 40-PLUS YEARS AGO.

WE ALL KNOW HOW THAT ONE WORKED. TURNS OUT SPEED IS RELATIVE, AND THE ONLY THING MINNESOTAN THAT RAN BETTER IN LONG GRASS WAS NAMED TORO.

BUT IF YOU WANT AN EXAMPLE OF HOW THE ELEMENTS PLAYED A MAJOR ROLE IN A HOME GAME WITH USC, YOU NEED TO GO BACK TO OCTOBER 29, 1955.

NOW THAT WAS A GAME.

USC THAT YEAR WAS LED BY ANOTHER SIMPSON-TYPE BACK. JON ARNETT WAS AS HIGHLY PUBLICIZED AND FEARED. THE GOPHERS HAD NOBOBY WITH THAT KIND OF SPEED, AND THE TROJANS WERE HEAVILY FAVORED.

BUT THOSE LONG ODDS WERE SET IN ADVANCE OF THE SHORT-RANGE WEATHER PREDICTIONS.

THE TEMPERATURE AT KICKOFF WAS 34 DEGREES. A CONSTANT WIND FROM THE NORTHWEST CARRIED A MIXTURE OF SLEET AND SNOW. AN OVER-CAPACITY CROWD OF 64,592 FANS BRAVED THE WEATHER TO SEE ONE OF THE HIGHEST RATED OPPONENTS IN MURRAY WARMATH’S THEN BRIEF TENURE AS GOPHER COACH.

THE TROJANS TOOK THAT GAME SERIOUSLY AS WELL. ALL THE WAY FROM SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA THEY BROUGHT THEIR SYMBOLIC TROJAN CHARIOT. UNFORTUNATELY, THEY FORGOT THE CHAINS.

MINNEAPOLIS TRIBUNE COLUMNIST DICK CULLOM DESCRIBED HOW THE CHARIOT BECAME MIRED IN THE MUD AND SLUSH IN WHAT HE DESCRIBED AS ONE OF THE THREE WORST WEATHER GAMES SINCE HE STARTED COVERING THE GOPHERS IN 1933.

THE GOPHERS CAPITALIZED ON TWO EARLY TROJAN PUNT DEFLECTIONS. GOPHER QUARTERBACK DON SWANSON ESTABLISHED THE PLAY-CALLING EARLY BY KEEPING EVERYTHING BETWEEN THE TACKLES.

OPERATING UNDER THE ASSUMPTION THAT RUNNING OUTSIDE ON THE SNOWY FIELD WAS ALL BUT IMPOSSIBLE, USC MASSED ITS DEFENSE UP THE MIDDLE.

FAKING ANOTHER DIVE PLAY, SWANSON SENT RUNNING BACK BOB SCHULTZ WIDE AROUND LEFT END FOR A 14-YARD TOUCHDOWN RUN TO GIVE THE GOPHERS A LEAD OF 6-0.

THE RUN, ONE OF THE MORE MEMORABLE IN GOPHER ANNALS, IMMEDIATELY GAVE BIRTH TO ONE OF THE BETTER NICKNAMES IN GOPHER HISTORY AS BOB SCHULTZ FOREVER BECAME KNOWN AS SNOWSHOE SCHULTZ.

AS THE GAME PROGRESSED DICK BORSTAD DEFLECTED A TROJAN PUNT AND SCORED SEVERAL PLAYS LATER ON A THREE-YARD RUN TO MAKE IT 12-0. USC TOOK THE KICKOFF BACK FOR A 73-YARD TOUCHDOWN, BUT MINNESOTA’S SWANSON COUNTERED WITH A 65-YARD RUN ON A QUARTERBACK KEEPER.

USC, UNABLE TO RUN OR PASS FROM SCRIMMAGE, SCORED NEXT ON A 93-YARD PUNT RETURN.

BUT BORSTAD SCORED AGAIN ON A SHORT RUN AND THE GOPHER DEFENSE STOPPED USC ON THE GAME’S FINAL DRIVE AS THE GOPHERS WON 25-19.

BORSTAD  LED BOTH TEAMS IN RUSHING WITH 104 YARDS, FOLLOWED BY SWANSON’S 94 AND SCHULTZ’S 44 YARDS. MINNESOTA TRIED ONLY TWO PASSES, COMPLETING NONE.

ALL AMERICAN ARNETT NEVER COULD FIND HIS FOOTING AND FINISHED WITH JUST 38 RUSHING YARDS ON 17CARRIES. SIX DIFFERENT TROJANS THREW A TOTAL OF 12 PASSES, THREE OF WHICH WERE INTERCEPTED.

AT THE TIME THE VICTORY WAS THE MOST-IMPRESSIVE NON-CONFERENCE WIN IN WARMATH’S EARLY CAREER.

LONG-TIME TROJAN FANS STILL RECALL THAT GAME AS THE WORST WEATHER CONDITIONS EVEN EXPERIENCED BY A TRAVELING SOUTHERN CAL TEAM.

UNFORTUNATELY, MIKE, THERE ARE NO SUCH WEATHER SURPRISES IN STORE FOR THE TROJANS HERE TODAY.

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