MN Gophers continue their dominance over Northwestern, win 41-14 to improve to 6-2 on the season!
The Minnesota Gophers traveled to Northwestern and took care of business, continuing to dominate the teams they need to beat. In the preview for this game, I had written "The passing game should be quiet, yet efficient again, letting the backfield and OL control the day and likely run up the score...The Gophers enter this road game as 7.5 point favorites and I feel that is being generous. I predict the Gophers to win this game in convincing fashion, 38-10, improving to 6-2 and officially becoming bowl eligible." The Gophers ended up winning 41-14 and the game never felt in doubt, just how it was supposed to go.
QB Tanner Morgan and the passing game was efficient, going 12-17 for 134 yards, with most of the passes resulting in key first downs. This has turned into an effective gameplan as the passing game is sprinkled in when needed to supplement the explosive running game. The Offensive Line continues to assert their dominance and have their way with the big defenses in the Big Ten. Freshman RBs Bucko Irving (19 carries, 110 yards, 2 TDs) and Ky Thomas (21 carries, 106 yards) helped the Gophers offense rush for a whopping 308 yards on the day. It's really amazing how the Gophers backfield has stayed consistent after now losing 4 RBs to season ending injuries and 1 leaving in the Transfer Portal. They only have the 2 healthy Freshman RBs remaining and we should expect to see some new faces mixed into the backfield that weren't even listed as RBs this season. For example, at the end of the game, we saw the Gophers put in Sophomore LB Derik LeCaptain at Running Back. LeCaptain ended up with 3 carries for 31 yards, including a 24 yard TD run for the Gophers final score. This enormous, experienced Offensive Line of the Gophers is playing with such a rhythm that it almost doesn't even matter who is running the ball. It's been really fun to watch this team dig in and find its identity after a rocky start to the season.
The defense continues to play brilliantly. For the second week in a row, they were able to force a fumble recovery to the opposing team's offense, only this time it resulted in a return for a TOUCHDOWN! All 3 levels of the defense are playing as 1 unit, and consistently swarming to the ball. Here are the highlights from the defense on the day:
1 fumble recovery returned for a TD (Northwestern's first drive)
4 tackles for losses
Only gave up 13 1st downs
98 passing yards allowed
143 rushing yards allowed
Now let's take a look at where the Minnesota Gophers are in various polls now that the 1st College Football Playoff Rankings have officially been announced:
CFP Ranking: 20th
Coaches Poll: 30th
AP Poll: 31st
CBS Ranking: 35th
The Gophers are now 6-2 with 4 games left on the season and in sole possession of first place of the Big Ten West at 4-1 thanks to a Wisconsin victory over Iowa this weekend. They control their own destiny the rest of the way and they host Illinois next weekend as they look to extend their winning streak to 5 games. Illinois has earned some nice wins this year over Nebraska and Penn State, but their starting QB broke his arm and is out for the season. The Gophers are currently 14.5 point favorites, but they need to keep focus and take care of business like they have over the last 4 games. Let's keep it rolling! Go Gophers!