Gophers Fall to Northwestern

Posted: November 20, 2011 by Kodi in Gopher Redemption, NCAA

Minnesota battles adamantly but too many mistakes led to another loss

The Gophers rushing attack was great but two big turnovers sealed Minnesota’s fate

With this loss the Gophers have ensure that HC Jerry Kill will win less than 4 games for the first time in 10 years!

The Minnesota Gophers football team traveled to Evanston, Illinois to face the Northwestern Wildcats for the 87th time. The Gophers were leading the series 50-31-5 coming into the game and Head Coach Jerry Kill was returning to the state for the first time as Minnesota’s HC. Kill and the Gophers football team were actually welcome by boosters from Northern and Southern Illinois Universities as they got off their bus. “This state has been good to me,” Kill said and was moved by their actions and belief Kill will get his team on track; “That means a lot when you’re going through a season maybe you’d like to not go through”.

The fact of the matter is that Jerry Kill hasn’t won less than 4 games since his first year as a HC for Southern Illinois University in 2001. Kill had to leave Illinois with a victory or he would accomplish something he hoped to never face again in his career. This matchup is always extremely close and Northwestern has a slight lead winning 7 of the 12 games the two schools football teams have played since 1995.

Three of the last four games have been extremely coach and all of them have come down to the final quarter or in 2007’s case double Overtime. Those three games were decided by a TD or less but the Wildcats won them all by a total of just 9 points and the lone game the Gophers won was a 35-24 beating in 2009 at Ryan Field in Evanston. Minnesota was playing for a chance to win at least 4 games but Northwestern was playing for a chance to become Bowl eligible and the Gophers game was their best hope as Michigan St. was rolling into town for the season finale.

Northwestern started off the season well winning their first 2 games but went on to lose 5 in a row but have rattled off 3 straight victories coming into their game with Minnesota. Their biggest victory was a 28-25 upset of the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln and with a win against the Gophers they would be 3-0 in November. Wildcats HC Pat Fitzgerald is 13-7 all-time in the month of November as HC but has really turned it up since 2008 with going 10-4.

The Wildcats started off hot by returning the opening kickoff 44 yards to the Northwestern 46 yard line. It took just 5 plays before the Gophers were called for Pass Interference on DB Kyle Henderson which brought the ‘Cats from Minnesota’s 30 to their 15 yard line. The next play Northwestern QB Dan Persa rushed up the middle and Gophers MLB Gary Tinsley was called for a face mask. The ‘Cats were given a first down at the 7 yard line and it took just one play for Persa to find WR Colter Kain for a TD.

Minnesota once again found themselves behind in the first quarter which has happened in all but 3 games this season. The Gophers came out with two huge runs by RB Duane Bennett who tore off a 12 yard rush and followed that up with a 13 yard rush. Gray completed 1 of 2 passes for 4 yards before connecting with WR DaJon McKnightfor a 29 yard gain and giving Minnesota a first and goal form the 8. The Gophers went back to Bennett for a 3 yard gain before QB MarQueis Gray was able to run it in from 5 yards out for his 4th rushing TD of the season. The play was an option that Gray took up the middle and refused to be stopped before crossing the goal-line and he literally carried 3 defenders on his back.

Northwestern had too much on the line and knew that they had an uphill battle to become Bowl eligible if they didn’t beat the Gophers. The ‘Cats returned the kickoff 42 yards and gave them great field position for the second drive in a row and cut the field in half for senior QB Dan Persa. It took just 7 plays for Persa to find WR Demetrius Fields on a 28 yard TD pass and once again Northwestern was up by 7.

The Gophers didn’t do such a great job answering Northwestern’s second TD and were forced to punt after a 3 and out. P Dan Orseske kicked the ball off the side of his foot and was able to net just 9 yards before the ball traveled out of bounds. This is the second week in a row the punter has netted less than 9 yards as last week he DOWNED HIS OWN PUNT after a bad bounce made it travel a measly 4 yards.

Handed incredible field position yet again the Wildcats traveled downfield with a methodical implementation of both the pass and run. Persa had already thrown for 2 TDs and HC Fitzgerald decided to pound the ball with RB Treyvon Green when they got inside the 4 and he finished the drive with a 2 yard TD rush. The Wildcats were up by 2 TDs and had scored 21 points in the 1st quarter which was a season high but after that Northwestern’s offense went stagnant for the next two quarters.

Their next drive Persa threw an Interception to DB Kim Royston and it was Minnesota’s first pick since week 3’s game against the New Mexico St. Aggies. The Gophers had the ball back and were given a good chance to get back into the game. Gray drove them all the way down to the 10 yard line before the offense sputtered and were forced to kick a 28 yard field goal when DaJon McKnight was incapable of coming down with a ball that he normally catches. The two teams ended up going to the locker rooms at halftime with the Gophers trailing the Wildcats 21-10.

Minnesota got the ball to open the second half and were working their way downfield until Bennett fumbled the football on the Wildcats 25 yard line and Northwestern’s Brian Peters recovered the ball. A few worthless drives by each team led to the Gophers having the ball late in the 3rd quarter with yet another opportunity to get in this game. Gray hit WR Brandon Green for a 31 yard pass to bring Minnesota to the 6 yard line but just two plays later Gray’s pass was Intercepted by Brian Peters, that pesky sonofabitch.

Northwestern realized that although they were winning it wasn’t  a guarantee that they would win and orchestrated a 15 play 80 yard drive that was capped by a 1 yard TD rush from RB Jacob Schmidt. The Gophers were able to add a 48 yard field goal by Kicker Jordan Wettstein on the ensuing drive but their fate was sealed and left Evanston with a 28-13 loss. In between all this scoring, or lack thereof, Minnesota had 49 rush attempts for 274 yards between two players.

RB Duane Bennett had a season high 127 yards rushing on 23 attempts and QB MarQueis Gray ran for 147 yards, a TD on 26 carries. The team ran the ball effectively and was the reason why the Gophers had multiple opportunities to get back into the games, however both players had turnovers. Bennett fumbled the ball and Gray threw an interception, while being overall unproductive in the passing game. Gray finished 9-21 with 124 passing yards and the interception but if you take away McKnights catches for 23 and 29 as well as Green’s catch for 31 the athletic QB would have been just 6-18 with 43 yards.

In Jerry Kills press-conference after the game it was more of the same, positive reinforcement and hope for the future. “Life’s tough and you’ve just got to keep battling back . . . to be honest with you we need more kids that learn to fight back through adversity. Sometimes we have youngsters make a mistake and they can’t get over it then they make another one and another one and then that’s how you get into having some bad plays out there” Kill said passionately.

But seriously? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me? If these fucking kids can’t fight through adversity, with all the opportunities they’ve been given these past few seasons, they don’t need to be on this football team. Jerry Kill has clearly been unenthused about the talent, rather the lack of talent, in the recruits that he inherited through the previous coaching regime. I put more of this season on Brewster than I do Kill but following the Head Coach fight through adversity and hear/see him battle through an incredibly challenging season yet still answers all the questions the right way gives me some hope for the future. Maybe not challenging for the Big Ten title hope but definitely win more than 4 games hope and this pathetic season comes to an end when the Gophers face Illinois at the Bank this Saturday.

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