Gophers defeat Northwestern

With the victory, Minnesota is off to a 2-0 start in conference play.

Grant Donald

There’s no consensus among the Gophers football team regarding who the team’s fastest player is.

But sophomore defensive back Jalen Myrick made his case as he bolted down the left sideline for a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown Saturday, which made the difference in Minnesota’s 24-17 victory over Northwestern.

“We’ve been working on that return for a long time,” Myrick said. “I give a lot of credit to my blockers. When we were in the huddle before we went out there, a couple guys told me to take it back [for a touchdown]. Once I got past the first two levels, I just had to outrun the kicker, and I did that.”

Myrick’s return was the game-changing play that the Gophers needed after Northwestern scored a touchdown off a 97-yard drive, which tied the game midway through the fourth quarter.

“We had a lot of adversity on that drive, but [97] yards for any touchdown is inexcusable,” senior linebacker Damien Wilson said.

Senior running back David Cobb seemed like he was going to make a big impact heading into the game, as Northwestern gave up 284 rushing yards to Wisconsin last weekend.

But it was redshirt sophomore quarterback Mitch Leidner who stepped up and led the offense.

“I think [Leidner is] playing with a high level of confidence,” head coach Jerry Kill said. “Once that confidence gets going and you develop some chemistry … you start spreading that ball around a little bit [and] good things happen.”

Leidner had no problem distributing the ball as he completed passes to five players throughout the game.

 The Lakeville, Minn., native finished the game with 153 passing yards, and he added 31 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

“We are just trying to get better each week,” Leidner said. “I’m feeling confident, but overall I feel pretty good about [my last two games].”

Leidner started the scoring early with a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown, which gave the Gophers a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

Northwestern responded with a touchdown of its own early in the second quarter, which was when Leidner and the Gophers knew they needed to respond right away.

“It was something that we did last week against Michigan, and then this week [I had] the same kind of feeling,” Leidner said. “We have to go out there and answer; you have to keep answering every time they score.”

Leidner eventually finished the drive off with another quarterback sneak for a touchdown. But it was a 52-yard completion to redshirt sophomore Maxx Williams that highlighted the scoring drive.

“I think the more we continue to improve on throwing the football, the better we’ll be able to run the football,” Kill said. “We’ve talked about that as we head into Big Ten play. I think our kids are gaining some confidence.”

While the Gophers might have expected a little more production on the ground, Cobb still was able to rush for 97 yards on the day.

“I think the offense showed great resilience today. It was a team win,” Cobb said. “It was good to see the offense face adversity and also be able to drive the ball when we needed to.”