Another rival racked up fat stats against the Gophers. This time, it was I-AA North Dakota State, capable and hungry to drive home a point.
Gophers football coach Tim Brewster made it clear last week that he doesn't think his team should be playing North Dakota State.
Given what transpired Saturday, that's probably a good idea.
In what will go down as one of the lowest points in program history, the Gophers were dominated in every way, shape and form by the Bison, who avenged a heartbreaking loss here last season with a 27-21 victory before an announced crowd of 63,088 at the Metrodome.
The Gophers were overpowered by a team that is a member of the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA), has 22 fewer scholarship players, does not have one player who was offered a scholarship to Minnesota and was 0-6 all-time against the Gophers.
It didn't matter. The Bison (7-0 and ranked No. 1 in the FCS) stormed into town with a huge following of fans, took the Gophers' money ($300,000 payout) and used a punishing running game to hand Minnesota its sixth consecutive loss.
The defeat also made official what had become obvious: The Gophers (1-7) can't qualify for a bowl game. They will be home for the holidays for the first time since 2001.
This is as bad as it gets.
"This is very, very frustrating," Gophers linebacker Steve Davis said. "Most of us have never been a part of a losing team. This year has come as a huge surprise. It's disappointing, but we've got four more games."
Which means things could really spiral downward for this team, starting next week at Michigan. The Gophers were so physically dominated and emotionally deflated that a one-victory season is looking more like a reality at this point.
Most Gophers fans expected growing pains under the new regime this season, but Saturday's performance felt like something else entirely.
"It seems like we're in every game but we just don't have the killer instinct to put a team away or jump out on them," senior center Tony Brinkhaus said.
The Bison certainly do. NDSU rushed for 394 yards (including a school-record 263 by Tyler Roehl), rolled up 585 total yards and had an edge in time of possession of nearly 14 minutes.
The final score could have been even worse if not for two missed field goals, a turnover that led to a touchdown and a roughing-the-passer penalty that led to another touchdown.
"Today didn't happen by chance," Bison coach Craig Bohl said. "It was no fluke."
He's right. A year ago, the Gophers underestimated the Bison but escaped with a 10-9 victory despite being outplayed. The Gophers knew what to expect this time and still got steamrolled by NDSU's running game.
"We just weren't good enough," Brewster said. "They were just more physical than we were."
The Gophers thought they had one final chance at a victory, but senior Dominique Barber was called for roughing the punter with 1 minute, 48 seconds left. The Bison kept the ball and ran out the clock.
Afterward, nobody from either team viewed it as an upset.
|Tampa Bay - LP: J. Odorizzi||2||FINAL|
|Boston - WP: J. Lester||6|
|Seattle||3||Top 7th Inning|
|Phoenix||66||3rd Qtr 2:32|
|NY Islanders||5||3rd Prd 9:07|
|Toronto||3||3rd Prd 12:04|
|William & Mary||74||FINAL|
|North Dakota St||83|
|South Dakota St||60||FINAL|
|San Francisco||34||1st Half 1:18|
|South Dakota St||58|
|San Jose St||75||FINAL|
|(5) West Virginia||71||FINAL|
|San Diego State||63|