With Jerry Kill making an appearance at Ryan Field in the second half, the Gophers bounced back from a sluggish first half to storm past Northwestern, 20-17, and earn their first conference win of the season.
For the first half hour following the opening kickoff, the Gophers looked sleepy coming off of a bye week where they learned they’d be without their head coach. Tackles were missed and passes were dropped as Minnesota headed into halftime tied at seven.
But following a speech by Kill at halftime, the Gophers’ defense snatched an interception and returned it for a touchdown in the third quarter to put Minnesota up for good.
Philip Nelson, who came in for starter Mitch Leidner in the second quarter, led the Minnesota offense to two field goals in the fourth quarter to seal the game. Nelson had a stellar game in relief, going 8-of-11 for 112 yards and a touchdown in addition to rushing for 26 yards. With his feet, Nelson extended plays and converted crucial first downs for Minnesota.
In addition to an efficient passing game, Minnesota also had a 100-yard rusher in David Cobb, who busted out for 103 yards on 20 carries — the second time he’s eclipsed the century mark this year.
The Minnesota win is Northwestern’s third straight defeat and will keep them from appearing in the AP Top 25 for another week. The Wildcats had been ranked as high as No. 16, but were dropped from the list for the first time this week.
- Ra’Shede Hageman was an impact player on defense again, highlighted by an interception. The second quarter turnover didn’t result in points for the Gophers, but it affected future decisions by Wildcats quarterback Trevor Siemian, who threw a pick-six to James Manuel in the third quarter.
- With Nelson leading the Gophers to a win this week, should we expect him to start next week against Nebraska? It’ll be interesting to see how the coaching staff, led by Tracy Claeys, will handle the situation. Apparently, playing Nelson today was planned and was not a decision based on Leidner’s first quarter performance.
- The Gophers are 1-2 in the conference and 5-2 overall, which means we’re officially on Bowl Watch. Minnesota will be on national television against next week when they host Nebraska. Following that game, they’ll travel to Indiana to face the Hoosiers before rounding out the schedule against Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State.