Gophers 29, Northwestern 12
The recap: Northwestern trimmed it to 15-6 late in the third quarter and recovered a fumble at the Gophers 22. But for the second time of the game, the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs in the red zone. Mitch Leidner sealed it with two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing).
What was learned: Minnesota’s defense forced two fumbles and had 12 tackles for a loss, including seven sacks. Northwestern was just 3-for-19 on third and fourth down. That was critical because the Gophers had two turnovers and went three-and-out five times.
YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED:
• Emmit Carpenter missed his first extra point of the season after the Gophers’ opening touchdown drive. It was still 6-0 midway through the second quarter, when the Gophers had fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
Leidner, Rodney Smith and others pleaded to go for it, but Claeys inserted Carpenter for a 19-yard field goal. Claeys said he would have gone for it, if not for the missed extra point.
“My thinking was, let’s get up by two scores now since we are at 6-0, and if we don’t make it, and they go down and score, they are up 7-6,” Claeys said. “I told the guys on offense, ‘Hey, if we get down here again the next time, we will go for it, if we get inside the 1. But let’s get up two scores.’”
It worked. With their defense repeatedly making big plays, the Gophers led by at least two scores the rest of the game.
• Leidner had gone 169 passing attempts without a touchdown before hitting Drew Wolitarsky on a 9-yarder in the fourth quarter. Leidner’s previous TD pass, also to Wolitarsky, had come seven games (or 30 quarters) earlier, Oct. 1 at Penn State.
“It’s been long overdue,” Wolitarsky said.
“Yeah,” Leidner added, with a knowing look, “needed a touchdown pass.”
UP NEXT: Wisconsin
2:30 p.m., Camp Randall Stadium
TV: BTN. Radio: 100.3-FM
Records: Gophers 8-3, 5-3 Wisconsin 9-2, 6-2
The skinny: The Badgers have averaged 232.8 rushing yards during their five-game winning streak, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted. Second-year coach Paul Chryst has used senior Bart Houston to spell starting QB Alex Hornibrook several times this season. In Saturday’s 49-20 win at Purdue, Houston entered for the third drive and finished the first half, completing five of six passes for 102 yards. Hornibrook, a redshirt freshman, started the second half and quickly led two touchdown drives. The nation’s fifth-ranked scoring defense is led by linebackers T.J. Watt, Vince Biegel, T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly.