Turnovers accumulate for the Gophers

Fumbles and turnovers contributed to shaky play against the Badgers.

Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner faces pressure from Wisconsin while running the ball at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday where the Gophers fell to the Badgers 31-2.

Joe Sulik

Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner faces pressure from Wisconsin while running the ball at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday where the Gophers fell to the Badgers 31-2.

Mike Hendrickson

Minnesota had five turnovers on Saturday against Wisconsin and put the team deeper into a hole it couldn’t get out of.
 
Redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Leidner was responsible for four, throwing three interceptions and fumbling once running the ball.
 
“They were a tough defense, and it was tough at times to get moving the football,” Leidner said. “They definitely capitalized on turnovers.”
 
The game was still very much in reach for the Gophers when they started giving the ball away.
 
The score was 14-14, and Minnesota’s defense had just forced Wisconsin’s first punt.
 
The Gophers started their drive with two runs by redshirt freshman running back Rodney Smith for 15 yards.
 
Leidner kept the ball on the third play of the drive. Badgers linebacker Joe Schobert forced a fumble, and Wisconsin recovered.
 
The Badgers scored a touchdown four plays later to regain the lead.
 
“[The ball] got a little away from my arm, and he was able to rip it out,” Leidner said. “It was just a good play by [Schobert].”
 
Minnesota got the ball back after Leidner’s fumble but then committed another turnover three plays later.
 
Leidner was able to find senior wide receiver KJ Maye for a first down near midfield, but Badgers safety Michael Caputo forced another fumble.
 
Wisconsin capitalized with another touchdown six plays later to increase its lead to 28-14.
 
“We got the momentum and got them stopped, and then all of a sudden we had those two turnovers and couldn’t get them stopped on those two drives,” head coach Tracy Claeys said.
 
“I think we began to feel a little bit sorry for ourselves, and that’s a good group of kids competing.”
 
The Gophers took the 14-point deficit to the locker room at halftime, but their defense forced a Wisconsin punt on the first drive of the second half.
 
The stop didn’t matter three plays later.
 
Schobert intercepted Leidner, and Wisconsin was able to use its field position after the turnover to add a field goal for its only points of the half.
 
Leidner was intercepted twice more in the fourth quarter, with both throws going to Badgers safety Tanner McEvoy.
 
The second pick killed a drive in Wisconsin’s territory, while the third was likely Leidner’s final pass.
 
“They struggled against a good defense, [and] that’s the way it goes,” Claeys said.
 
The five turnovers were the most the Gophers had in a game this season, and the three interceptions were tied for the most Leidner has thrown in a game in his career.
 
The Badgers scored 17 points off of the Minnesota turnovers, keeping Paul Bunyan’s Axe in Madison for the 12th straight year and forcing Minnesota to wait a year for another chance at the border battle.