On Homecoming, coming into the game as 31-point favorites, the Gophers lost to Bowling Green 14-10. A day where the Gopher offense was truly bad, the special teams may have been worse and the defense couldn’t quite keep Bowling Green from scoring 2 touchdowns and it ends with the worst home loss in years.
The first half full of angst and justifiable frustration. Minnesota struggled in all phases offensively, producing just 94 total yards and 3 points. The play-calling was vanilla and the execution was severely lacking. Bowling Green was bringing frequent pressure throughout and the Gopher offensive line was unable to handle it. The offensive play-calling did nothing to attack the pressure with quick passes or screens. And even when he had time, Tanner Morgan was not sharp. To put it kindly, the offense really struggled early. It got worse.
Minnesota managed a field goal in the first half after Mariano Sori-Marin intercepted a Matt McDonald pass, giving the offense the ball on the Bowling Green 23. They moved the ball just 5 yards and then Matthew Trickett kicked a 36-yard field goal.
Conversely, the defense did it’s job in the first two quarters. In addition to the interception, the Gophers held the Eagles to just 65 yards at half, with just 1 yard rushing. They did give up a touchdown, but that came after the offense went for it on 4th and 1, lost yards and turned the ball over to the Bowling Green offense on the Minnesota 24.
The half ended with the Gopher offense producing 1 fumble and 9 offensive plays that resulted in a loss or no-gain, three of them being sacks. They ran into the locker room hearing a fair amount of boos from the Homecoming crowd.
The second half opened with Bucky Irving returning the kickoff 34 yards, starting with the ball on the 44. And the Gopher offense did exactly what was expected of them from the beginning. They marched down the field and scored a touchdown. Retaking the lead when Cole Kramer kept it on a read-option, sprinting 19 yards for the touchdown.
Taking a 7-10 lead and perhaps a sigh of relief.
But that was perhaps premature. Eventually Bowling Green scored again following a Trickett missed FG attempt. From their own 35 they went 65 yards on 8 plays and it was a McDonald 3-yard keeper to give his team the 14-10 lead.
This was not going according to plan and the offense continued to struggle.
Needing a 4th quarter stop, down 4 points, it was the special teams that continued the Gopher’s day of costly mistakes. After being forced to punt, it was Phillip Howard who ran into the punter, giving the Eagles a first down and continuing the drive. Five plays later the defense once again put Bowling Green into 4th down, this time forcing a field goal attempt. The kick was missed but it was Val Martin who lined up over the center, which is illegal. And the Bowling Green drive continued. Finally on 3rd and 7 from the Minnesota 19, the Eagles completed a pass but the ball was stripped by Braelin Oliver, recovered by Terell Smith and it was the defense taking care of business.
Now, with 7:35 remaining and down 14-10 it was up to the Gopher offense, needing a game-winning drive. Which they failed to do. After picking up 2 first downs and then Morgan missing an open Michael Brown-Stephens, the Gophers faced a 4th and 8 with 3:33 to play. They punted. Relying on the defense to get a quick stop.
Which they did, forcing a quick 3-and-out and giving the ball back to the offense at their own 35.
And on first down Karl Brooks blows by Daniel Faalele, Tanner Morgan lets one loose deep to Dylan Wright that was intercepted by Devin Taylor. Severely underthrown due to being hit hard by Brooks. A perfect example of the collective failures we saw all afternoon.
One last offensive gasp came with 23 seconds remaining but it was another Morgan interception, this one all on his own. And just like that the Eagles were victory formation, securing a huge upset for Bowling Green.
There are really no excuses for the abysmal performance today by the Gophers. It was a poor game-plan, it was worse execution and clearly this team came into the game expecting to win by showing up. They did not.
Up next is the Big Ten and trip to Purdue next Saturday.