The Minnesota Golden Gophers played a sloppy game on Saturday afternoon for Homecoming against the Northwestern Wildcats, and the result was their second consecutive loss, falling 21-13.
The Gophers had three turnovers on Saturday afternoon. Lamonte Edwards muffed the opening kickoff as Northwestern avoided return specialist Troy Stoudermire, and Northwestern took over at the Minnesota 26. Running back Venric Mark scored just one play later on a 26-yard touchdown run. The Wildcats intercepted MarQueis Gray early in the second quarter after a rare Northwestern three-and-out, and Mark scored his second touchdown just two plays later, going untouched from 48 yards out. To cap it off, Max Shortell was sacked on fourth down on the Gophers' final drive and fumled the football, with the Wildcats jumping on the loose ball to seal the victory.
The Gophers had to play musical quarterbacks on Saturday afternoon due to injuries. Max Shortell started, but injured his left arm during the first quarter of play, so Minnesota went back to Gray at quarterback. Gray had Minnesota's lone touchdown of the afternoon, a 25-yard dash on the first play of the second quarter, that cut the Northwestern lead to 14-10. However, Gray would get injured again in the third quarter, hurting the same leg that caused him to miss Minnesota's games against Western Michigan and Iowa, and Shortell went the rest of the way.
A lot of the statistics favored Minnesota in this afternoon's game. They had a time of possession advantage over the Wildcats (33:57 to 26:03), and outgained the Wildcats yardage-wise by a tally of 327 to 275. However, the Gophers again got off to a slow start, and couldn't overcome turnovers, penalties, and sloppy play.
Venric Mark absolutely mauled Minnesota in the first half of play, as he racked up 151 rushing yards and two scores before halftime, including four runs of more than 20 yards. He finished the game with 20 carries for 182 yards. Northwestern's quarterback rotation of Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian combined to go 11-for-17 for just 67 yards, although it wasn't really much of a rotation. . .Siemian only completed one of his seven attempts for four yards, with Colter going 10-for-10 for 63 yards. With the way Northwestern ran the ball on Saturday, the passing game was rightly an afterthought.
For Minnesota, Shortell and Gray combined to go 16-for-30 for 169 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. Gray wound up being Minnesota's leading rusher, with nine carries for 83 yards and the 25-yard touchdown mentioned earlier. Donnell Kirkwood chipped in with 18 carries for 73 yards. A.J. Barker was Minnesota's leading receiver, with three grabs for 49 yards.
Northwestern was penalized eleven times for 93 yards on the afternoon, while the Gophers were flagged nine times for 82 yards.
Northwestern (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) hosts the Nebraska Cornhuskers next Saturday, while Minnesota (4-2, 0-2 Big Ten) travels to take on the Wisconsin Badgers in the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe.