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Gophers running game powers 34-14 victory against Northwestern

308 total rushing yards from Minnesota proved to be too much for Northwestern to handle.
Image by Ethan Fine
Mar’kiese ‘Bucko’ Irving carries the ball down the field in a game against Nebraska on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021 at Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn.

After a 41-14 road victory over Northwestern, Minnesota’s sixth win officially gives them bowl eligibility, as they now sit alone in first place atop the Big Ten West standings.

Minnesota’s offense came out firing on all cylinders. Several different players received the ball on the opening drive, but it did not result in a touchdown. Matthew Trickett’s 26-yard field goal gave the Gophers a 3-0 lead.

Freshman cornerback Justin Walley continued the Gophers’ fast start. On Northwestern’s first offensive play, Walley scooped up and returned a fumble for his first career touchdown extending Minnesota’s lead to 9-0.

After forcing a Northwestern punt on the next drive, the Gophers’ offense failed to score its first offensive touchdown, but a 30-yard Trickett field goal made it a 13-0 ball game.

To begin the second quarter, Northwestern finally found its rhythm. 51 total yards from Maple Grove, Minnesota native running back Evan Hull resulted in a Wildcats’ touchdown drive narrowing the lead to 13-7.

Dynamic running back duo Ky Thomas and Mar’Keise ‘Bucko’ Irving combined for 24 carries, 108 yards and one Irving touchdown in the second quarter which gave Minnesota a 20-7 lead heading into the locker room.

The second half did not start with the same tempo. Three consecutive punts from both the Gophers and Northwestern made for a sluggish third quarter.

Tanner Morgan opened things up in the third quarter. An 18-yard scamper from the redshirt-senior quarterback extended Minnesota’s lead to 27-7.

Success continued to come in the form of the running game for the Gophers. Irving’s second touchdown of the day came in the form of 40 yards, and the Minnesota lead ballooned to 33-7.

Northwestern added a touchdown at the end of the quarter, but an early injury from Bryce Williams opened the door for redshirt sophomore Gophers linebacker-turned-running back Derik LeCaptain to make his first career appearance in the backfield. The former walk-on ran with the opportunity for 24 yards, giving him his first career touchdown, finishing off the Wildcats, 41-14.

Minnesota’s winning streak has now grown to four, and it now sits alone in first place atop of the Big Ten West standings.

Thanks to another dominating performance from both its offensive and defensive lines, Minnesota controlled Northwestern for much of the entire game. Defensive ends Boye Mafe and M.J. Anderson both recorded a sack of their own, while the offensive line was the driving force of another terrific offensive performance.

The Gophers 41-17 victory gives them six on the season and they now control their own destiny to win the Big Ten conference.

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  • Tom Anderson
    Nov 2, 2021 at 3:15 pm

    Wasn’t the final score 41-14?