Bowling Green spoils the Minnesota Gophers' Homecoming 14-10
The nation was in shock as Saturday's final score meant the Minnesota Gophers likely won't be attending the College Football Playoff as a participant this season, I know, I am shocked too. In classic Minnesota sports fashion, the Gophers got upset 14-10 by Bowling Green, one of the worst teams in college football, on Homecoming, and after coming into the game favored by an enormous 31-points! Nobody saw this coming besides maybe the Bowling Green football players. For a team in any level to pull off an upset of this magnitude, there does need to be some level of belief by the underdogs. Congrats to the Falcons for the win and the amazing gameplan they put together. This also marked Minnesota's first loss to a non-Power 5 opponent since 2011.
I attended the game on Saturday with 2 of my close friends. One of them jokingly said that "[He'd] go to the game as long as the Gophers win, duhhhh!" ... woops. I can assure you that with how poorly the Gophers played, the fanbase became more and more disgruntled as the game continued. As the 3rd and 4th quarters rolled around, it became clear that there were more 'boo's' at Huntington Bank Stadium than there was at the local distillery. And after 'USCeeing' that performance, I highly doubt the Trojans have anymore interest in PJ Fleck. This loss reminds me of the heartbreak seen so many times over the years by Gopher fans. I don't need to bring back up all of the bad losses, but this one fit right in there. My father, an Alum, has been a fan of the Gophers for 60+ years and has seen all of the poor performances. After reading my preview for this game, he called me up and mentioned that he likes the current staff more than past years, but knowing the historical letdowns with this program, he was very nervous about this game and said he wouldn't watch it as it felt like a game the Gophers could potentially lose. I laughed and told him "we got huge issues if the Gophers can't beat the worst team in college football!" Wow, he nailed it on this one.
Right from the opening kickoff, it really felt like the Gophers players were still drunk from the night before. If they weren't, then it is an even more embarrassing loss, so we are going to stick with that story. QB Tanner Morgan was terrible, throwing 5-13 for 59 yards, 2 interceptions and earned a whopping 5.1 QBR on the day. He also NEVER runs with the ball but decided to today and was able to pick up 18 yards on a rush only to fumble at the end of it killing all of the momentum of that drive. A huge reason we lost this game early was Fleck's decision to have the offense go for a 4th & 1 on our own 30 yard line, while winning 3-0, in the first half instead of punting and continuing to let our defense smother the Falcons offense. Our offensive line somehow got pushed back (as they did all day) and RB Treyson Potts was met in the backfield to create a turnover on downs. This led to an easy 25 yard touchdown drive for Bowling Green, an offense that hadn't shown it had ANY sign of life prior to that opportunity, and take a 7-3 lead. Honestly, the defense for the Gophers played great. They were put into tough situations all day with the decision making by the unprepared coaching staff and the potentially "still drunk from the night before" offense and special teams.
I can't confirm, but it appeared the Gophers special teams met up before the game to partake in a drinking session of their own. Every time the Falcons lined up to punt, the Gophers punt returner lined up in Duluth, MN. Him lining up 155 miles away from the punter was a bold strategy and allowed every single punt to just drop and bounce back to help give Bowling Green somewhat of a field position victory each time. The one SINGLE time our punt returner tried to catch the punt... give me a second to laugh... he was forced to full on sprint those 155 miles to just barely get to the ball in shoestring fashion.. but he didn't secure it. Instead, fully bent forward and running full speed, the ball ricocheted off his hands and proceeded to bounce around and make contact with nearly everyone on both teams (cue the blooper music) before the Gophers luckily were able to get the recovery. That wasn't all for the Gopher's questionable special teams play. Our kicker missed field goal, we forced the Falcons into a missed field goal only to end up giving them a new set of downs because we lined up over the long snapper, the Falcons missed another field goal but got a new set of downs because we used leverage to try to block the kick, and on a punt attempt we gave them a new set of downs after a blatant roughing the kicker penalty. It was endless torture trying to watch this game. Every time you thought the Gophers were going to wake up and play to their capabilities, they said SIKE to the entire crowd.
On a positive note, the Gopher's season is not over. This was a massive letdown and probably one of the worst losses in the history of the Gopher football program, but we re-enter Big Ten play and I still think we are one of the better teams in the conference. The Gophers can still win all of the games leading up to the final Iowa-Indiana-Wisconsin stretch as long as they focus on the small details. They are still a talented team, but evaluation at each position is going to need to take place starting with the QB position. Fleck is in his 5th season with the Gophers and Tanner has always been his guy, but he now has a team filled with his recruits and he needs to show the fanbase what they can do to save this season. I really hope this teams takes offense to this loss and travels to Purdue next week with anger and demolishes them like they did Colorado. Fleck took responsibility for the loss like a good coach should do and it shouldn't be forgotten all that he has done to bring this program out from the ashes. Since PJ Fleck has become the head coach, the Gophers entire football program has improved in all areas on and off the field. On the field, the 2019 team earned a ranking in the Top-10 for the first time in nearly 60 years and had its best winning performance in more than a century. Fleck also accomplished something that hadn't been done since 2003, by beating their biggest rival, the Wisconsin Badgers, in 2018 with a convincing 37-15 win in Madison. Off the field, the Gophers have shown an improvement in the classroom with a team GPA over 3.6, a focus on players being involved in the community with consistent visits to children's hospitals, helping prepare meals for Save My Starving Children each year, and a huge emphasis on helping improve the community after the devastating George Floyd incident and riots during the 2020 Covid-19 year. I will always support PJ Fleck because what he has brought to this school and community has created a larger impact than a single game can provide. That being said, preparation clearly needs to be more focused starting with the leader of the team. Time to get ROWing again and look past this blip and onto Week 5, Purdue Week! Lets go, GOPHERS! #RowTheBoat #SkiUMah #GoGophers