Clash of Titans
Games featuring a future Hall of Fame coach on each sideline.
November 4, 1916: Illinois @ Minnesota
Robert Zuppke vs Henry Williams
Robert Zuppke became head coach at Illinois in 1913. He is most famous as Red Grange's coach from 1923-25. During his 29 years at Illinois, he was credited with many innovations, including the huddle, screen pass, long snap, and flea flicker.
Henry L. Williams became Minnesota's coach in 1900. He played for the immortal Walter Camp at Yale in 1889-90. After a year as coach at West Point, he was out of football until he took the Minnesota job. Williams immediately led the Golden Gophers to the Big Ten championship in his first year. By 1916 his teams had captured seven more conference titles.
Zuppke's Illini lost to the Gophers in his first year 19-9. However, they handed UM their only loss in 1914, 21-6. The teams tied 6-6 in '15.
Minnesota was 4-0 heading into its 1916 game with Illinois. That brought the Gophers record in their last 13 games to an impressive 12-0-1. Williams' team had outscored their four opponents 251-0! Sportswriters named Minnesota the "perfect team." They evoked comparisons to Fielding Yost's point-a-minute teams of the previous decade.
Illinois had not fared as well–two wins and two losses. Chicago Tribune columnist Ring Lardner suggested tongue-in-cheek that Zuppke "would be wise to stay over in Chicago and go to the theater instead of continuing his trip to Minneapolis." Lardner predicted a 49-0 defeat for the Illini.

L: Robert Zuppke; R: Henry L. Williams
Bookies set the odds at 20 to 1 that Minnesota would win and 10 to 1 that Illinois would not score a point.
Minnesota was so confident that they invited Walter Camp, the football coaching legend turned sportswriter, to travel 1,000 miles to Minneapolis from his home on the East Coast to watch the Gopher juggernaut. University officials even erected a special viewing stand for him at Northrop Field.

Northrop Field, University of Minnesota
Zuppke took a surprising approach to the game. During the week of practices, he built up Minnesota to his own players as invincible, a team no opponent could possibly beat, least of all this mediocre group of Illini. "If they laugh at us," he told his boys, "we'll just laugh too."
When the Illini arrived in the Twin Cities Friday afternoon, Zuppke conducted a scrim­mage. Then he surprised his players and staff by suspending team training rules to allow players to return to their hotel rooms after midnight. He told them to forget the game and go out and have a good time.
As Zuppke later recalled, "At Minneapolis, everybody in the hotels and on the streets commiserated with us. It made the boys mad. Illinois had nothing to lose and any score under 50 by the Gophers would apparently have been a moral victory as everyone in Minneapolis told us the best we could hope for was to hold the score down to 50 to 0. George Halas, (later) owner of the Chicago Bears, was an end on the Illinois team that year–he was on crutches for this game."
In ideal football weather, the Illini took the field to warm up well before their hosts. When the Gophers finally came out, Illinois sophomore HB Dutch Sternaman yelled to line coach Justa Lindgren, "Hey, Lindy, they don't look so big." "Yea," said another player. "They don't look like anything that couldn't be handled." Zuppke's psychology was working!

L-R: Dutch Sternaman, Bart Macomber, Bert Baston
For decades, the game was considered football's greatest upset. The Fighting Illini took advantage of breaks and used every trick in the book to maintain an early lead.
Minnesota went nowhere on the first possession of the game, and Illinois returned the punt to the Gopher 45. Let Zuppke tell what happened next.
"A fullback smash gained nothing, and then Illinois called for a spread formation, a new play in which the linemen spread out six yards from each other—the backfield doing the same in square formation. This was the turning point of the game. Minnesota didn’t know whether to play opposite the man or opposite the hole between our linemen. (QB Bart) Macomber then passed to Sternaman for a 25-yard gain, and on the next play ran over center for the first touchdown, on a quarterback sneak from the T-formation. Macomber also kicked the extra point and it was 7 to 0. The mighty Gophers had yielded their first score of the season."
Throughout the game, Zuppke fooled Minnesota by consistently lining up all 11 players on the offensive line and then shifting right before the snap.
Minnesota's passing combination of FB Arnold "Pudge" Wyman to E Bert Baston was considered one of the greatest in football history. But on the Gophers' next possession, Wyman's pass missed its mark, and Reynold Kraft intercepted and returned it 55y for an Illinois touchdown. Macomber's kick made the astounding score 14-0.
That remained the score through the first half. But Minnesota came out after the intermission with a new resolve and scored nine points in the third period. Two passes from Wyman to Baston gained a total of 25y to spark a Gopher drive that culminated in HB Harold Hansen's 4y plunge. Baston's PAT kick cut the deficit in half, 14-7.
UM scored a few minutes later when the Illini fumbled a punt that rolled over the goal line for a safety to make it 14-9.
The final period began with Minnesota reaching the Illini 20 on an end run and two forward passes. But the defense bowed their collective backs and took over on downs.
The Gophers were soon back in business at the 20 on a forward pass. But the next aerial was intercepted. The Illini then drove far enough to try a field goal that Baston blocked and returned to midfield. A pass and two lines plunges moved the ball to the 24 when the gun sounded to end the game.
The evening edition of the Chicago Tribune plastered this headline over the story of the game: "WAIT TILL YOU READ THIS!" The Minneapolis Evening Tribune also praised the Illini effort. "Illinois walked all over the much-touted Minnesota team, bewildering the Gophers by her open play."
Illinois' 14 points would prove to be the only points scored on Minnesota in their 6-1 season.
Zuppke would proclaim the upset of Minnesota in 1916 "my greatest day in football—even over the thrill of seeing our Galloping Ghost, Red Grange, run wild for Illinois in 1923, 1924 and 1925."

References: Goodman, Murray. My Greatest Day in Football, The Kent State University Press. Kindle Edition.
"Illinois Shocks Minnesota's Perfect 1916 Team," (2019)
"Minnesota Football: World War I and the 1916 Gophers," (2017)