At halftime, the Homecoming crowd at Huntington Bank Stadium sent the Gophers to their locker room amid a cascade of boos, upset with a performance that saw the home team trailing Bowling Green by four points.
In the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, silence, not jeers, came from the crowd of 46,236, much of which was heading to the exits as the highly unexpected became inevitable:
Bowling Green, a 31-point underdog, would defeat the Gophers 14-10.
"We did not deserve to win that football game, whatsoever,'' said Gophers coach P.J. Fleck, absorbing the most disappointing loss in his five years as Minnesota's coach. "Whether we won the game or not, we did not deserve to win that football game. That 100 percent falls on me. Every single thing that happened out there on that field falls on me.''
Only a week after a crowd of roughly 12,000 Minnesota fans reveled in the team's 30-0 stomping of Colorado in Boulder, the Gophers lost to a team that hadn't beaten an FBS program since Nov. 2, 2019.
That Rocky Mountain high from the blowout of Colorado in Boulder? It sure faded quickly.
The good feelings from an offense that rolled to 441 yards last week? Means little now.
And the optimism of an upcoming Big Ten schedule that looked manageable? Better check that.
Minnesota's offense struggled all game long, and the Gophers got only a 36-yard field goal by Matthew Trickett in the first quarter and Cole Kramer's 19-yard touchdown run in the third. A key piece of the offense was missing: Wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell played only one series and was walking gingerly on the sideline.
Quarterback Tanner Morgan endured his worst game as a Gopher, completing five of 13 passes for 59 yards. He fumbled the ball away after an 18-yard gain into Bowling Green territory in the first quarter, then threw two interceptions in the final 2:13 of the fourth with the Gophers trying to rally.
"I have to play way better,'' said Morgan, who was sacked four times. "We talk about being 'the reason' at the quarterback position, and today I was opposite of 'the reason.' ''
When asked what was wrong with the passing game, Fleck was succinct.
"Everything,'' he said, pausing. "You want me to be more specific? … Pass protection, quarterback play, tight end play, throwing and catching the football. That sums it up.''
As the Gophers (2-2) struggled to muster an offensive threat, Bowling Green (2-2) did just enough, getting TD runs by quarterback Matt McDonald of 1 yard in the second quarter and 3 in the third.
The Falcons' first TD came after Fleck went for it with his team leading 3-0 and facing fourth-and-1 from its 29-yard line in the second quarter. Trey Potts was dropped for a 5-yard loss, and Bowling Green took a 7-3 lead four plays later.
"I told the defense, 'Those are mine. I decided to go for it on fourth down. Those are my seven,' '' Fleck said. "Those are the points that lost the game, basically.''
A similar bold fourth-and-1 call from the Minnesota 29 worked for Fleck in the opener against Ohio State when Mohamed Ibrahim ripped off a 56-yard run. This time, no dice.
"We needed to get something going,'' Fleck said. "We're up 3-0 and we haven't moved the ball. … Our defense is playing great. Sometimes, you've got to inject something into the team. Hindsight's everything.''
Behind the tough running of Potts, who rushed 28 times for 141 yards, the Gophers showed offensive life to open the third quarter. Quarterback Cole Kramer took a direct snap out of the Wildcat formation and raced 12 yards for a touchdown and 10-7 Gophers lead.
The Gophers wasted a 54-yard run by Potts to the Falcons 37 later in the third quarter, gaining only 3 yards on three consecutive carries, including one when facing third-and-6. Trickett missed a 52-yard field-goal attempt, and Bowling Green responded to take the lead for good on an eight-play, 65-yard drive capped by McDonald's 3-yard TD run on a QB draw with 31 seconds left in the third quarter.
The first two Gophers possessions of the fourth quarter ended in punts, and their final two lasted one play each — interceptions thrown by Morgan with 2:13 left and 17 seconds to play.
Afterward, Fleck credited Bowling Green coach Scot Loeffler for the victory, but also spoke of his and his team's shortcomings.
"I told them in [the locker room], whatever you felt like could be some of the worst football we could have played, we just put it out there,'' he said.