Errors don’t prove costly

C.J. Spang

As much as North Dakota State tried to give Saturday’s game away to Minnesota’s football team, the Gophers never capitalized on the momentum swings but still came away with the win.

That’s something they won’t be able to get away with against their remaining Big Ten opponents.

Coach Glen Mason spoke after the game about the importance of momentum.

“You don’t open a bottle of momentum and rub it on everybody,” he said. “It’s a mental-type thing. And sometimes when Ö you got the momentum and you go sky high, if you don’t capitalize, what happens? The other team goes sky high.

“You’ve got to fight like heck to get (the momentum) and once you get it, you better keep it and we’re just not doing that right now.”

While Minnesota did come away with the 10-9 win, the Bison gave the Gophers a couple of chances to blow the game wide open.

Trailing 3-0 and in position to go down by at least three more points as the Bison had a first-and-10 on the Minnesota 14-yard line, the Gophers got a break with a North Dakota false start.

On the next play, Steve Walker’s pass was tipped high into the air by a leaping Minnesota player.

Both wide receiver Travis White and the Gophers junior defensive back Jamal Harris came racing back toward the jump ball, but Harris came out the victor, pulling down the interception.

A seemingly big swing in momentum was killed seven plays later when Minnesota punted the ball away.

“It’s frustrating but it’s just a part of the game,” junior running back Amir Pinnix said. “You just gotta come back the next series and bounce back. The defense played extremely well today and we just have to capitalize as an offense.”

The next offensive series for the Gophers came more quickly than expected as White fumbled the punt and Minnesota recovered on North Dakota’s 18-yard line.

Now it was the Gophers’ chance to put points on the board. But Minnesota went three-and-out and had to settle for a field goal.

“If you’re going to be a good football team and put yourself in a position to win, you must capitalize on those types of things,” Mason said.

Even though the defense was doing everything in its power to keep the Bison out of the end zone only to see its efforts wasted by the offense, junior linebacker Mike Sherels said the defense didn’t become frustrated with the offense.

“In the past, frustration would have been the word that I used,” Sherels said. “But we kind of tried to break away from that and try not to depend on the offense at all, which is something we knew we had to do.

“It was a situation where, that stuff happens, we give the ball to the offense, what they do with it is on them we don’t worry about it. When it’s our turn to go, we go out there and do what we got to do and get back off the field and they do what they got to do.”

That’s something the defense is likely to have to do a lot against top-ranked Ohio State on Saturday.

While Minnesota’s play on the field didn’t give anyone any indication the Gophers stand any chance against the Buckeyes, Sherels had a unique perspective on what his team learned from the Bison.

“I’ll say North Dakota State taught us a thing or two about being the underdog and playing like you have a chip on your shoulder,” he said. “And they played well; they had something to prove on every snap and it showed.”

Defining Moment

In a game that was defined by missed chances by both squads, the ultimate missed opportunity came with one second remaining in the game and the Gophers leading 10-9. The Bison lined up for the game-winning, 42-yard field goal that could have crippled the Minnesota program, but a bad snap and low kick allowed the Gophers to block it and escape the Metrodome with a victory.
– C.J. Spang

Player of the game

Minnesota’s Defense
-While the defense did give up 23 first downs, 380 yards and allowed Division I-AA North Dakota State to convert on 7-of-16 third down attempts, the Gophers did manage to do one important thing – keep the Bison out of the end zone. Thanks to timely red zone stops, including a tipped pass that turned into an interception, the defense gave the offense all the chances it needed to get the win, which it did, barely.
– C.J. Spang