Gophers replay

Northwestern 27, Gophers 0

The recap: It was 3-0 late in the second quarter when Northwestern returned a punt to Minnesota’s 5-yard line, setting up a touchdown. The Wildcats opened the second half with a 19-play drive that killed nearly nine minutes, ending in a field goal, and Northwestern rolled from there.

What was learned: The Gophers weren’t bad defensively, but their offense was overmatched against Northwestern, which had held No. 16 Stanford to six points. Coach Jerry Kill pulled Mitch Leidner in favor of freshman Demry Croft, but it doesn’t appear to be a permanent change.

 

YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED:

• The Gophers rushed for 58 yards in the first quarter. After that, they had 21 carries — for 16 yards. Kill said Northwestern’s defense stiffened, and each play seemed to feature one or two Gophers mistakes.

• The Gophers passed for only 99 yards and didn’t take many deep shots. Kill said the wind played a factor, noting that Northwestern also eschewed the long pass. He said Northwestern’s coverage scheme, with cornerbacks playing back and two high safeties, makes it tough to throw deep. He added, “But should you take two or three more shots? Yeah.”

• Trailing 3-0 with 3:46 left in the second quarter, the Gophers got the ball at their own 11. Rodney Smith rushed for zero, 1 and 7 yards, and then they punted. Why so conservative? “I probably didn’t want to turn it over,” Kill said. “I think we thought we could run and get it out of there, and we just didn’t do it.”

• The Gophers went 4-for-20 combined on third- and fourth-down conversions.

• The Gophers held the ball for only 3:34 in the third quarter, when Northwestern mounted two long drives and scored 10 points.

 

UP NEXT: at Purdue

2:30 p.m. Saturday, Ross-Ade Stadium

TV: ESPN; Radio: 100.3-FM

Records: Gophers 3-2, 0-1 Big Ten; Purdue 1-4, 0-1

The skinny: Purdue went 3-9 last year, including a 39-38 loss to the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium. Darrell Hazell’s Boilermakers continued stumbling last month with losses to Marshall, Virginia Tech and Bowling Green. But Saturday, Purdue gave No. 2 Michigan State all it could handle in a 24-21 loss in East Lansing. Markell Jones, last year’s Indiana Mr. Football, rushed 22 times for 157 yards and two touchdowns. He’s averaging 6.8 yards per carry this season. Jones and redshirt freshman David Blough each had turnovers in the first half, as Michigan State built a 21-0 lead. But the Boilermakers came back, falling just short of a major upset. Blough, who replaced Austin Appleby as the starting QB, has completed 60.3 percent of his passes.

JOE CHRISTENSEN