The Gophers overcame a 21-0 halftime deficit to take a late lead, only to lose in OT on a two-point conversion in coach Tim Brewster's debut.
The storybook start to the Tim Brewster Era is over. Bowling Green made sure of that.
A night that began with unbridled optimism and promise ended in major disappointment as Bowling Green scored on a two-point conversion in the first overtime to ruin Brewster's coaching debut with a 32-31 victory against the Gophers before an announced crowd of 49,253 at the Metrodome.
Bowling Green quarterback Tyler Sheehan rolled right and squeezed a pass to Freddie Barnes in the end zone for the winning points in a roller-coaster affair.
Afterward, Brewster displayed a range of emotions. He said he was disappointed by the loss but encouraged that his team rallied from a three-touchdown halftime deficit to make a game of it.
"I'm going to be no less excited about coming to work tomorrow morning," he said. "This is a long race. This is a marathon, not a sprint."
The game took on a frenetic pace, especially in the second half. Weird doesn't begin to describe how it all unfolded.
Trailing 21-0 at halftime and getting booed by their home fans, the Gophers scored points on four consecutive possessions to take their first lead. Jason Giannini's 33-yard field goal with 2 minutes, 12 seconds remaining put the Gophers ahead 24-21.
"We needed to close it out," Brewster said. "We needed to make one play on defense."
They didn't. Bowling Green moved the ball quickly downfield and sent the game into overtime on Sinisa Vrvilo's 35-yard field goal with three seconds left.
Gophers tailback Amir Pinnix scored on a 23-yard touchdown run in overtime. Bowling Green answered with a 9-yard touchdown catch by Marques Parks on its second play of overtime. The Falcons elected to go for two instead of an extra point, and the gamble paid off.
"We made the decision long before tonight," Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon said. "We've got to go for it, so we did."
The Gophers had won their previous five season openers by an average of 39.6 points. Bowling Green, which lost to lowly Temple last season and had 40 first- or second-year players on its depth chart, had the look of another lightweight, on paper at least.
But then the game started. And the Gophers quickly found out it wouldn't be easy.
The Falcons came out flying on offense and took advantage of a young and shaky Gophers secondary. Sheehan completed his first seven passes and had a big night. He completed 34 of 51 passes for 388 yards and two touchdowns. Bowling Green rolled up 512 total yards.
Bowling Green jumped out to a 14-0 lead before the smoke from the pregame fireworks had cleared the air and led 21-0 at halftime.
"We can't put our offense behind by 21 points in the first half," Gophers defensive tackle Eric Small said. "It's as simple as that. We can't put them in that hole."
The entire first half was a disaster for the Gophers. Bowling Green rolled up 324 total yards in the half -- 235 passing. Minnesota's spread offense debuted with only 163 total yards, eight first downs and two turnovers before halftime.
"It was the first game and we had a lot of emotion," Brewster said. "But give credit where credit is due. Bowling Green did a heck of a job."
The Gophers offense overcame its sluggish start with a strong second half. The running game took control and redshirt freshman quarterback Adam Weber settled down.
In his first career start, Weber completed 15 of 31 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. He was effective in the option, rushing for 72 yards on 18 carries.
"I think we all settled down [after halftime]," Weber said. "I think coming in I was a little overexcited. We realized that we needed to relax. We knew we could come back."
Minnesota used its power running game to get back into the game. Pinnix rushed for 32 yards on the opening drive of the second half, capped by a 4-yard touchdown run that Minnesota on the board.
The Gophers inched closer when Ernie Wheelwright took a screen pass 13 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The Gophers faced third-and-goal from the 4 with 8:58 left. Weber rolled to his right and found Pinnix alone for an easy touchdown to tie the score 21-21.
Chip Scoggins email@example.com