Editor’s note: Fourth in a six-part series. The 1991 Stanley Cup Final started on May 15, and the 1992 Final Four came to a conclusion on April 6. A Minnesota team or venue was involved in those two major events and three more in between. What a run. We will look back at that stretch of Minnesota sports history each day this week.
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For Chip Lohmiller, it was a homecoming. He just wishes he remembered more about the game.
On Jan. 26, 1992, the NFL’s biggest game arrived at the smallest venue ever to host it. By today’s standards Super Bowl XXVI was a rather quaint affair, from the week-long buildup to the game to the “Winter Magic” halftime show. For Lohmiller, a placekicker who grew up in Woodbury, who kicked for the University of Minnesota under that same Metrodome roof, who had to fulfill 77 ticket requests from friends and family that week, it was magic, period.
“It helped me with my nerves,” Lohmiller said of being back home. He’s now chief of the Crosslake Fire Department. “I knew I could play in that facility. It felt really, really good being able to come back and play in front of friends and family.”
It was a memorable game, one in which Lohmiller’s team beat up on Buffalo, handing the Bills the second of four straight Super Bowl losses. There was Bills running back Thurman Thomas, the NFL’s MVP, unable to find his helmet before the Bills’ first possession. Washington intercepting Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly four times. A 37-24 Washington victory in a game that was nowhere near as close as the final score would indicate.
For Lohmiller? Unfortunately, all a blur. He remembers the team bonding during the week — in part because of a feeling the Bills were doing a little too much talking in the papers. He remembers taking a cab with quarterback Mark Rypien to the Metrodome early on game day — a ritual between the two friends — and standing with Rypien (the game’s eventual MVP) at midfield taking a picture after the game ended.
But, the game? “I remember our defense overwhelmed their offense,” he said. “Jim Kelly running for his life. We dominated. I guess the main thing I remember is we were in so much control of the game it made it more fun.”
As the only native Minnesotan suiting up, Lohmiller did his best to sell the state to his teammates. But once the team was in the Twin Cities, it was all good. Mild weather, a welcoming community. “Minnesota did a fantastic job,” Lohmiller said.
During the week Lohmiller took teammates Earnest Byner, Monte Coleman and Art Monk ice fishing on a lake south of the Twin Cities. He remembers turning his truck onto the road plowed on the lake. “They were all like, ‘Why is this road so bumpy?’ ” Lohmiller said. “I was like, ‘Well, we’re on the lake.’ They all tried to stand up in the truck because they were afraid.”
The game? Not many bumps, at least for Washington. Washington had a chance for a field goal at the end of a scoreless first quarter, but a botched snap ruined that.
But Washington soon took over. Lohmiller kicked a 34-yard field goal early in the second, the first of 24 straight Washington points. Lohmiller’s third field goal of the game — he finished the game with 13 points — put Washington up 37-10 in the fourth quarter.
The next day, many members of both teams — including Lohmiller — had a 5:30 a.m. flight to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. It was there Lohmiller made one of his best trades ever, giving Thomas his kicking shoes in exchange for that hard-to-find helmet.
“I still have it,” Lohmiller said.
Two picks, one big W
For Brad Edwards, it was more of a professional homecoming.
He was a Washington safety on the receiving end of two of Kelly’s four picks that day.
But Edwards — now athletic director at George Mason University — played his first two NFL seasons with the Vikings. Washington using the Vikings practice facility, and with the game in the Dome, it was all home to him.
“I remember how surreal it was to get off the plane, drive through Bloomington to Eden Prairie,” he said. “It added some specialness for me.”
And what a place to have the best game of his career.
The two things he remembers most: Even having played in the Dome he was amazed at how loud it was. And, how hot it was.
But what a game. His first interception came in the first quarter. Then, near the end of the first half, Buffalo, down 17-0, was driving. In the half’s final minute, on third-and-18 from the Washington 28, he broke up a Kelly pass to Andre Reed on a play where it appeared Edwards hit Reed before the ball got there.
“It wasn’t interference,” Edwards said. “I should have intercepted the ball. It was interesting. Reed jumped up, slams his helmet down. [Washington linebacker] Wilber Marshall turns to the official and says, ‘You can’t let him do that.’ The official turns and throws his flag.”
The penalty pushed Buffalo out of field goal range.
Edwards’ second interception came in the fourth quarter. He returned it 35 yards to the Buffalo 33, setting up Washington’s final score. But Edwards says he should have returned it for a score.
“I had so little gas left,” he said. “I came from all the way from the other side of the field. I always kicked myself I didn’t score. That cost me the [MVP] trophy. I always give Rypien a hard time about that.”
Years ago when he was an assistant AD at South Carolina, Edwards came home to see two of his sons playing catch. Turns out the ball was from one of those interceptions.
“There it was, skidding across the ground,” he said. “They just pulled it off the shelf. That is absolutely perfect.”
The big show
Kirk Juergens was already home.He never actually saw the game, but what a way to end a college career.
In 1992, Juergens was in his last year at the University of Minnesota. He was drum major of the marching band and he and the rest of the group were among a cast of, literally, thousands scheduled to play at halftime.
In the first half, he was stuck on a bus at Augsburg College at the halftime show staging area. As the first half was winding down, they made their way to the Dome, entered and waited in the tunnels.
When the half ended they were thrust out onto the field, did the show and were hustled out before the second-half kickoff.
But: “It was a thrill,” Juergens said. “We were representing the state of Minnesota to the world. And we were in our uniforms.”
To be clear: Members of the marching band were a part of the halftime show when the Super Bowl returned to Minneapolis a few years ago. But they were clad in black uniforms, not maroon and gold.
It was a different era, with halftime shows that — Juergens admits looking back now — look a tad cheesy.
“But at the time it was a big advertisement for the state,” he said.
The theme of the production was: Winter Magic. Among the 2,000 performers were drill teams and dancers, Olympians Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill skated and at the end Gloria Estefan sang.Somewhere in the middle of all that: The Minnesota band provided the soundtrack for a “Frosty rap.”
The place was jammed, it was being watched by millions on TV. What a way to go out in Juergens’ last performance.
“In our uniforms,” he said. “It was clear to the world who we were.”
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America’s Sports Capital
This week we look back 30 years at Minnesota’s incredible 11 months of mega-sized sporting events:
Part 5: Buffalo and Washington ran up the score in the Metrodome in the ’92 Super Bowl.
Part 6: Michigan’s Fab Five was an even bigger Final Four deal than Christian Laettner and Duke.