Frustration sets in as Gophers lose third straight

Anthony Maggio

EVANSTON, Ill. – The one word spoken more than any other after Minnesota’s 23-17 loss at Northwestern on Saturday was “frustration.”

The Gophers’ reasons for being frustrated are multiplying with each game. They are frustrated from losing. They are frustrated from being 1-4, 0-3 in the Big Ten.

But the greatest cause of frustration for Minnesota’s football team is the coveted bowl game berth slipping away with each loss.

Unable to come away with a victory after holding arguably the most potent offense in the Big Ten to three points over the final 49:26 of the game, the Gophers lack of scoring irked everyone.

“Everybody is frustrated on the team, especially on the offensive side,” running back Tellis Redmon said. “We know we’re 10-times better than that.”

Minnesota’s offense outperformed the Wildcats offense in rushing yards (257), total yards (400), and first downs (24).

But the most important category is points, and the Gophers couldn’t cash in on Saturday.

“We had the opportunities,” coach Glen Mason said. “We only have ourselves to blame.”

Minnesota’s biggest problem on Saturday was penalties.

The Gophers finished the game with nine penalties for 65 yards, but not included in the tally are the yards taken away on big plays.

The most detrimental miscue came near the end of the third quarter.

Down 23-10, Minnesota had the ball on Northwestern’s 40-yard line. Quarterback Travis Cole, who replaced Asad Abdul-Khaliq with 10:39 left in the third, threw a 39-yard strike to Antoine Burns.

But instead of first-and-goal at the one, the Gophers were called for holding. Four plays later, Minnesota turned the ball over on downs.

Sloppy weather conditions also had an effect on the game.

Both teams had difficulty dealing with the hard rain which never let up. Northwestern fumbled four snaps while Minnesota dropped three. The offense recovered all seven of the fumbles.

Mason elected to go with Abdul-Khaliq to start the game at quarterback despite Cole getting the nod in the last three games.

In the first quarter, Abdul-Khaliq marched Minnesota into Northwestern territory on its first five possessions, but managed only 10 points.

On the first drive, Abdul-Khaliq took the team 57 yards before throwing an interception at the 5-yard line.

The Wildcats took over and kept the pressure on the Gophers every play, getting to the line and snapping the ball like it was a two-minute drill.

In only 3:54, Northwestern went 95 yards on 16 plays for a touchdown. The Minnesota defense appeared headed for a long afternoon.

But after giving up a Sam Simmons touchdown on the next possession, the Gophers defense sealed the holes and held the Wildcats in check the rest of the way.

“At first we weren’t ready for the pace of the game,” safety Jack Brewer said. “But after the first two drives we had them. We had a good feel for their offense and I think we did a pretty good job after that.”

The Gophers defense had settled in, but the offense was still trying to gain momentum.

After punting and throwing an interception on its last two possessions, Minnesota was forced to punt again.

Simmons, who caught the winning touchdown pass against the Gophers last season, made them pay for it.

Simmons broke three tackles and sprinted 71 yards to paydirt, breaking the game open for Northwestern.

“When you get a score on the kicking team its huge,” Mason said.

Abdul-Khaliq went 4 of 18 with three interceptions in the first 35 minutes of the game, so Mason decided to put Cole in the game.

Cole managed to throw for 107 yards and a touchdown to Ron Johnson with 32 seconds left, but it was too little too late.

Johnson’s catch was his third of the day and number 172 of his career, setting the record for career receptions at Minnesota.

The one bright spot for the Gophers offense was the running game. Redmon ran for 143 yards and Marion Barber III picked up 57 of his own.

“We established the run today,” Redmon said. “That’s what our mind set was, to come in and pound them like Ohio State did. We just came up short.”

Anthony Maggio covers football and
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