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Gophers lose Big Ten opener to the Northwestern Wildcats

All week Brewster has been telling his team they are 0-0, hoping for a fresh start to the season. They are now 0-1 in the Big Ten and 1-4 overall with all four losses coming at home.

Since spring practice Brewster has been preaching that his team needs to learn how to finish. They had opportunities to do that this afternoon on their homefield but were unable to hold the lead and finish off the Northwestern Wildcats.

The Gophers were helped out considerably by Northwestern miscues in the first half. Seven penalties for 57 yards and two fumbles went a long way towards stalling their own drives and aiding the Gopher offense. The Gophers took advantage of those mistakes and capitalized with some big plays to take the 21-14 half time lead. Passes to McKnight for 27 yards, Lair for 42 and Duane Bennett for 38 all led to first half scoring drives.

The second half was less sloppy and the Gophers played well for most of the third quarter. The Wildcats opened the second half with an 11 play, 80 yard touchdown drive but a missed extra point allowed the Gophers to maintain the lead 20-21 which they held till the end of the 3rd quarter. They pushed that lead to 28-20 with 12:15 left to play in the game on an 11 play, 89 yard drive. The drive was 10 consecutive rushing plays averaging 6.5 yards per carry that set up a 3rd down play-action pass to Eric Lair for the 25 yard score.

From that point on it was all Northwestern.

The Wildcats drove down the field to score a TD but missed the 2-pnt conversion meaning the Gophers still held a 26-28 fourth quarter lead. The offense mustered a three and out giving NU the ball back with 6:14 remaining. Persa led the Wildcats inside the 10 but the Gopher defense held forcing a FG attempt. Stefan Demos nailed the 27 yard FG to put NU back up for the first time since 11:19 in the 2nd quarter.

This left 2:07 left for the Gophers to put together a game winning drive. The kickoff was returned to the Minnesota 40 and the Adam Weber led 2 minute offense was set to begin. The play-calling was eye-brow raising and the execution was altogether lacking. With under a minute to play and needing at least 20 yards to get into FG range an inside run was called. NU stuffed the run which ate up precious clock and put the Gophers in long down territory. On third down Weber had McKnight open for about an 8 yard gain but the pass was high and behind. Uncatchable and the Gophers faced 4th and 11. Northwestern blitzed, Weber was forced out of the pocket, threw as he was hit and Ben Johnson intercepted the pass to seal the game.

But this came down to finishing. The Gophers had plenty of opportunities to put Northwestern away but were unable to finish the game and come away with a win.

  • Ryan Collado had perfect coverage on the last NU touchdown. He was in position to make a play, but Jeremy Ebert made it.
  • Adam Weber had the ball with 2:00 to go on his own 40 but was unable to lead a game winning drive.
  • Tim Brewster had the same opportunity but his offense seemed unprepared for a 2-minute offense. The play-calling and the clock management were terrible, yet not surprising.
  • The defense had 4 opportunities to stop Northwestern on 3rd down on their final two scoring drives. Three were converted, the fourth was stopped but NU was inside the 5 and easily in range for the go ahead FG.
  • The offense had the ball, up 26-28 with 8:17 remaining. This is where a ball-control offense gets a few first downs and eats up the clock. Instead the ran for 1, ran for 4, sacked for -3 and punted; giving the ball back with 6:14 to play.

The Gophers played well enough to win but their inability to finish is what cost them.

Below the jump are a couple clips from Brewster's press conference.