Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
The Northwestern Wildcats wore “gothic” uniforms against the Minnesota on Saturday, and with Halloween coming it was a scary result for the Golden Gophers. A competitive game for much of the first half changed dramatically in the second half, and Northwestern took control on their way to a 27-0 shut out victory.
The big headline for Minnesota during Saturday’s game was the debut of true freshman quarterback Demry Croft, who replaced an ineffective Mitch Leidner in the fourth quarter. Croft did little to cause an immediate quarterback controversy, going 5-for-11 for 27 yards in four series of work, but an 11-yard run on his first play showed he can add something that Leidner simply can’t right now.
For the second time in three weeks an injury-plagued Golden Gophers’ offensive line struggled to open holes in the running game, as the team averaged just 2.2 yards per carry. Leidner and the passing game gave a tough Northwestern defense nothing to worry about through the air, and two turnovers by the Gophers’ quarterback did not help things.
It’s easy to point to facing a good defense as an explanation for Leidner’s dismal effort on Saturday, but he’s been mostly bad in four of Minnesota’s first five games this season. Croft should have played two weeks ago against Kent State, when he was seen warming up, and I think the coaching staff did him a disservice by throwing him into the fire in the Big Ten opener against a top-notch defense.
Leidner’s level of play has given head coach Jerry Kill no choice but to look elsewhere for a quarterback, so I expect Croft to see consistent and meaningful action as the season goes on. Leidner will probably start next Saturday against Purdue, in what should be an easier game, but if he continues on his current track it will only be a matter of time before Croft makes his first career start.
The Golden Gophers were last shut out in 2011, during Kill’s first season as head coach, when Michigan dominated them 58-0.
Up next for Minnesota, as previously alluded to, is a road trip to take on Purdue next Saturday. Kickoff is schedule for 2:30 p.m.
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