Despite being thoroughly outplayed Saturday, the Gophers football team thought it had one final opportunity to win the game when North Dakota State lined up for a punt with 1 minute, 48 seconds left in regulation.
But coach Tim Brewster had his team go for the block, senior Dominique Barber got called for roughing the punter, and NDSU was able to run out the clock for a 27-21 victory Saturday at the Metrodome.
"It was my decision to go for the block," Brewster said. "We thought we had a great scheme. I thought it was a perfect opportunity to go for it, and we did. Unfortunately, we roughed the punter. Game over. As long as I'm the head football coach at the University of Minnesota, we are going to be as aggressive as we can be."
On fourth-and-14, Barber broke through the line and ran into NDSU's Mike Dragosavich after he kicked the ball. Barber said the official made a good call.
"Coach had faith in me or [Curtis Thomas] to block it," Barber said. "We're just trying to make play. Unfortunately I hit the punter."
Gophers freshman quarterback Adam Weber threw his 15th interception of the season early in the fourth quarter after NDSU's Nate Agbetola, who is only 5-8, wrestled the ball away from 6-5 wide receiver Ernie Wheelwright.
"I thought [Wheelwright] competed hard for the ball," Brewster said. "Sure, I'd love to see him get the ball out. But I thought he did do a good job of competing and trying to scratch it out."
Said Agbetola: "Basically, height doesn't matter. It's about the effort of going for the ball. I had one hand on it, he grabbed it but then I had the leverage and brought it down. The short man won."
Gophers sophomore tailback Jay Thomas suffered what appears to be another serious knee injury on a 15-yard run in the second quarter. Thomas' right knee got twisted awkwardly as he spun around.
Brewster said he didn't know the extent of Thomas' injury, but a steady stream of players and coaches consoled Thomas on the sideline.
"The indications I have right now about Jay are not good," Brewster said. "I'm heart sick about Jay."
Thomas suffered a serious left knee injury as a freshman.
North Dakota State's 394 rushing yards were the seventh most by a Gophers opponent since 1982.
Gophers senior cornerback Jamal Harris was benched in the second half after a rough first half. He missed several tackles, including one on Tyler Roehl's 77-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
The Gophers looked as if they might pin NDSU inside its 5-yard line on a punt early in the second half. Steve Davis caught the ball on a bounce at the 4, but he bobbled the ball and it rolled into the end zone for a touchback.