Gophers Drop Homecoming Game To Northwestern, 29-28

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Gophers Fall Apart Late, Lose to Northwestern 29-28

(Sports Network) – Stefan Demos made up for a botched extra point by connecting on a game-winning 27-yard field goal late in the final quarter as the Northwestern Wildcats remained undefeated as they defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 29-28, in a Big Ten Conference battle at TCF Bank Stadium.

Northwestern (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) was led by quarterback Dan Persa who threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns on 23-of-30 passing for the Wildcats. Persa also ran for 99 yards on 18 carries in the win.

Eric Lair caught three passes for 75 yards and two for touchdowns in the loss for Minnesota (1-4, 0-1). Adam Weber threw for 194 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for the hosts.

The Wildcats scored on their first drive of the game as Persa connected on a 45-yard touchdown pass to Tony Jones, capping a 67-yard drive that took just four plays as Northwestern held the early lead, 7-0.

The Gophers answered shortly thereafter when Duane Bennett caught a 38-yard completion from Adam Weber for a touchdown, knotting the score at 7-7.

Northwestern running back Mike Trumpy darted for 12-yard score midway through the opening quarter as the Wildcats now held a 14-7 advantage.

The score remained that way into the second quarter until Minnesota posted the first of its two scores before the half. The first came as Bennett hooked up with Lair for an eight-yard touchdown pass. Then, with under a minute remaining in the first half, DeLeon Eskridge scampered for a four-yard score as the Gophers marched into the intermission with a 21-14 lead.

Northwestern took the first possession of the second half on an 11-play, 80- yard drive, capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by Jacob Schmidt. Demos missed the extra point however, and the Wildcats were left trailing, 21-20.

The score remained that way until early in the fourth quarter when Lair caught his second touchdown of the day, this time from 25 yards out, providing the Golden Gophers with a 28-20 edge.

The Wildcats battled back on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Persa to Jeremy Ebert. Northwestern decided to attempt a two-point conversion for the tie but Persa’s pass fell incomplete.

With 2:07 remaining in the game, Demos nailed the 27-yard field goal to give Northwestern the 29-28 lead.

Minnesota was unable to get into field goal range to give the Golden Gophers a chance for the win. Adam Weber threw an interception on 4th and 11 at the Wildcats’ 40-yard line to put an end the exciting affair.

Northwestern made good on an impressive 8-of-11 on third down in the contest, while limiting the Gophers to just 3-of-11 in such situations.

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Gophers Now Trail By One, 29-28

After the Gophers went three-and-out, the Wildcats moved down the field once again, thanks in large part to the mobility of Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa, who has gotten into the secondary several times this afternoon.

However, an option play on third and one was stopped short by the Gophers, and the Wildcats had to settle for a field goal from kicker Stefan Demos to give them a 29-28 lead with just over two minutes remaining.

Can Adam Weber get the Gophers into field goal range?

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Northwestern Answers, Gophers Still Lead By Two

Northwestern answered Minnesota’s touchdown with one of their own, taking the ball 69 yards in seven plays. The drive concluded with Dan Persa finding Jeremy Ebert from 25 yards out as the Wildcats burned the Minnesota blitz for the score.

The Wildcats went for a two-point conversion to tie the score, but Persa’s pass fell incomplete in the end zone, and the Gophers retain their two-point advantage at 28-26.

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Gophers Capitalize On Another Northwestern Turnover To Go Up By Eight

The Wildcats appeared to be driving to take a lead over the Gophers, but the Minnesota defense held firm, and Michael Carter intercepted a pass from Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa to give the Gophers the football at their own 11-yard line.

From there, the Gophers put together an impressive drive, moving the 89 yards down the field in 11 plays, and taking just over six minutes to do it. The drive concluded when Weber found big Eric Lair for the tight end’s second touchdown catch of the afternoon, this one from 25 yards out.

With eleven minutes remaining in the ball game, the Gophers lead the Wildcats by a score of 28-20.

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Wildcats Score Touchdown, Gophers Still Lead 21-20

Northwestern got the ball coming out of the locker room at halftime, and took very little time capitalizing, moving 80 yards in 11 plays, taking 3:46 off the clock. Their drive concluded with a 1-yard touchdown run by Jacob Schmidt.

However, Northwestern kicker Stefan Demos shanked the extra point to the left, and as a result the Gophers still have a lead.

With 11:14 left in the third quarter, Minnesota leads Northwestern 21-20.

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Gophers Take Lead Into The Locker Room, 21-14

After forcing Northwestern to turn the ball over on downs, the Gophers put together a nice drive to end the first half and give themselves the lead going into the locker room.

The Wildcats appeared to have the right play set on on fourth and six on the Gopher 33, but Northwestern’s Jacob Schmidt simply let the ball slip through his hands, and it went over to the Gophers. From there, Adam Weber and Da’Jon McKnight hooked up on three consecutive pass plays, covering 44 yards, and Northwestern committed pass interference against Marqueis Gray to get the Gophers up with first and goal at the eight.

Two carries later, DeLeon Eskridge plowed into the end zone, and Eric Ellestad’s extra point gave the Gophers a 21-14 lead.

The Gopher offense has looked good in the first half, with Weber going 10-for-15 for 157 yards and a touchdown. The running game has also looked good, with Eskridge and Duane Bennett combining for 80 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. Bennett also threw a touchdown pass to tight end Eric Lair on a halfback option.

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Trickeration Helps Gophers Tie Game At 14

The Golden Gophers running game has been killing it in the second quarter thus far, and that helped them to claw back into a tie with Northwestern.

After a huge pass from Adam Weber to tight end Eric Lair that came as the result of play-action, Weber pitched the ball to Duane Bennett going right. Bennett then pulled up and lofted a pass for Lair into the end zone, and the big tight end brought it in for a score from eight yards out.

With 7:30 left in the first half of play, the Gophers and the Wildcats are tied at 14 at TCF Bank Stadium.

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Talk Gophers On One Of Two SBNation Game Threads

As always, the SBNation family of websites has two different open threads for you to discuss today’s game between the Golden Gophers and the Northwestern Wildcats.

You can talk all about the game on either The Daily Gopher, SBNation’s home for all things Gophers, or you can head on over to the SBNation Big Ten Football blog, Off Tackle Empire.

Enjoy one or both of our Game Threads!

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Gophers Open Big Ten Season Against Northwestern

The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 2nd, 12:00 p.m. (et)

FACTS & STATS: Site: TCF Bank Stadium (50,805) -- Minneapolis, Minnesota. Television:ESPN. Home Record: Northwestern 2-0, Minnesota 0-3. Away Record: Northwestern 2-0, Minnesota 1-0. Neutral Record: Northwestern 0-0, Minnesota 0-0. Conference Record: Northwestern 0-0, Minnesota 0-0. Series Record: Minnesota leads, 50-35-5.

GAME NOTES: Two teams headed in opposite directions collide in Minneapolis this weekend, as the Northwestern Wildcats tussle with the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Big Ten action at TCF Bank Stadium.

The Wildcats haven't played the most challenging schedule up to this point, but nonetheless, they have completed a perfect non-conference slate for just the second time in the last 48 seasons. The most recent of the team's four victories came this past weekend, a 30-25 decision over Central Michigan. Northwestern now heads back out to the road, where it has won four straight games, including two this season.

The Gophers meanwhile, have dropped three straight contests on their current four-game homestand. The streak began with a shocking 41-38 loss to South Dakota State, a FCS program, and continued last weekend with a surprising 34-23 defeat to Northern Illinois. Minnesota is now just 4-6 all-time at TCF Bank Stadium, which opened last season.

Minnesota leads the all-time series with Northwestern, 50-35-5, and that includes a 35-24 triumph in last season's meeting.

Northwestern's success can be attributed to the steady play of QB Dan Persa, who is in his first year as a starter. The redshirt junior has been nearly flawless thus far and he ranks third in the country in efficiency, while leading the nation with an 80.2 completion percentage. He has thrown just one pick in 106 attempts and is also a dual-threat, leading Northwestern with 172 yards on the ground. Persa did throw his first INT last weekend versus CMU, but he was still effective in completing 23-of-30 tosses for 280 yards and a pair of TDs. His main target was Jeremy Ebert, who brought in five passes for 83 yards and two scores. Ebert currently leads the team in catches (17), receiving yards (331) and TDs (four) on the season.

On the defensive side of things, Northwestern has shown a knack for making big plays, recording 12 takeaways, including eight INTs thus far. The Wildcats forced three turnovers last weekend, helping negate some of the 423 yards they surrendered to CMU. The defense also added three sacks to the equation, giving the unit a total of nine for the year. The Wildcats' run defense continues to be strong as well, holding CMU to just 76 yards on 23 carries. Opponents are averaging just 111.5 rushing ypg versus Northwestern thus far. Quentin Davie has done his part for the defense with 22 tackles and a team-high three INTs to his credit, while Vince Browne has provided a nice pass rush with four sacks and six TFLs.

QB Adam Weber threw for 373 yards and a pair of TDs, but it wasn't enough for Minnesota in a loss to NIU last weekend. With his effort, Weber became the ninth Big Ten QB in history to surpass 9,000 passing yards for his career. Weber, who has completed 62.6 percent of his tosses, has used MarQueis Gray and Da'Jon McKnight to his advantage, as the WR duo have combined for six of the team's seven passing TDs. Each player caught a TD last weekend, as Gray hauled in eight balls for 117 yards while McKnight finished with seven receptions for 72 yards. Tailback Duane Bennett was limited to just 72 yards on 24 carries last weekend, but he has still amassed 371 yards on the ground this season.

The problem for Minnesota this season has been its defense, which is giving up 417.5 total ypg, including 251.2 passing ypg. The defense just hasn't been able to stop anyone and is allowing challengers to convert 46.6 percent of the time on third downs. Last weekend, the Gophers' run defense was simply embarrassed by NIU, which ran for 297 yards on only 28 carries. NIU averaged a whopping 10.6 yards per carry, simply pushing around a supposedly better Minnesota club. Christyn Lewis had six stops, to go with a forced and recovered fumble in the loss, and he currently ranks fourth on the team with 17 tackles for the year.

The Gophers are a mess right now and just might be the worst team in the Big Ten. Minnesota should be ready for this one, but Northwestern should still have enough in the end to claim the victory.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northwestern 34, Minnesota 27

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