The Big Ten West’s best team won their 14th Big Ten game in their last 15 this afternoon in Minnesota. Northwestern, like they have done all season, did exactly what they needed to do to beat Minnesota 24-14. The Wildcats move to 7-1 in the Big Ten with just a game against Illinois remaining before they head to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game.
Overall this was mostly an evenly played game. Time of possession, total yards, penalties and seemingly every other statistical category was relatively even. The lone exception was turnovers where Minnesota committed three and Northwestern did not give the ball away. Those turnovers and a bevy of mistakes that didn’t show up in the box score doomed Minnesota from the beginning.
But in spite of those mistakes, a 2nd quarter Mohamed Ibrahim touchdown from one yard out tied the game at 7-7. The defense, which was solid for the most part this afternoon, then allowed a very quick Northwestern touchdown drive before the half. The Wildcats took just 1:06, going 55 yards on just three plays to retake the lead. A missed PAT was the only silver-lining but the quick-strike scoring drive put Minnesota back in a hole that they never recovered from.
The second half saw the Wildcats slowly pull away. In the fourth quarter they marched 92 yards on 7 plays, converting the 2-point conversion to go up 21-7. Then 2 plays later they stripped the ball from Tanner Morgan, recovered on the Minnesota 11, kicked a field goal and went ahead by 3 scores 24-7.
The Gophers finally responded with a 9-play, 60 yard drive and a Tyler Johnson touchdown reception to make it 24-14. But with less than 5:00 remaining and down two scores, too late to make a comeback today.
This was a game where Minnesota struggled to get out of their own way while Northwestern played solid, mistake free football. So what went well for Minnesota?
- Defensively this was a good effort by Minnesota, especially Blake Cashman. The senior linebacker 20 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a huge sack.
- Northwestern was only 4/13 on 3rd downs.
- Offensively, Tyler Johnson had 8 catches and a touchdown.
But hard to get too excited about anything that happened on the field. Northwestern was fine, Minnesota was not and it resulted in a quick 24-14 loss.
Up next? The battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe. The Gophers head to Madison on Saturday for their last regular season game of the year.