With defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys as interim head coach, the University of Minnesota Gophers finished the first half tied with Northwestern, 7-7.
Mitch Leidner started the game for Minnesota and played the first quarter, completing only one pass for 11 yards while rushing for 26 yards on five attempts. When Leidner was deemed inefficient, Claeys substituted in Philip Nelson, who led the Gophers to their only touchdown by connecting with Derrick Engel on a 29-yard pass midway in the second quarter.
The Wildcats, who had been ranked in the AP Top 25 up until last week, also played poorly, which is one big reason why Minnesota is still in the game. Northwestern has five less minutes of possession compared to Minnesota and has turned the ball over once on an interception. The Wildcats’ touchdown came on a seven play, 72-yard drive late in the first quarter to set up a three yard rushing touchdown.
Overall, for a nationally televised game on ESPN2, the matchup has been a snore as the two teams have combined to punt the ball nine times.
Defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman has provided a few sparks in the game for the highlight reel, when he made an interception off Northwestern’s Trevor Siemian. However, Minnesota squandered the turnover, punting the ball a few plays later.
Jerry Kill watching game at Ryan Field
While Jerry Kill is not coaching the Gophers on Saturday, the third-year Minnesota head coach was in the press box at Ryan Field during halftime. This is in contrast to reports that he was watching the matchup in Minneapolis.