The Gophers got a first down with the Leidner-to-Carter connection, but then turned it over on downs four plays later.
Leidner completed 10 of 21 passes for 72 yards, adding an interception and a fumble that Northwestern returned for a touchdown.
The Gophers ended up getting no closer to the endzone than Northwestern’s 31-yard line – a grim indictment on the state of the offense, even considering the Wildcats’ defensive prowess. Minnesota is now 15-5 in non-conference games in coach Jerry Kill’s five seasons.
“Those games are very valuable because they prepare us to play at the stage and at the level where we believe we can win our division”, Gibson said.
The Wildcats (4-0) host Minnesota (3-1) in the conference opener Saturday, hoping to build on a promising start. Just one game into Big Ten play, time to rebound is certainly there, but Minnesota has yet to show enough positive signs to make a turnaround towards the successes the program had a year ago seem reachable. It was Northwestern’s first shutout in B1G play since 1995 and the first time the “Cats have recorded multiple shutouts in a season since 1965 – and it’s only five games into the year”.
On the other side of the ball, redshirt freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson continues to improve for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats later marched inside the Gophers 5 but were shut out of the end zone on three straight tries before Mitchell’s 23-yard field goal made it 13-0 with 6:14 left in the third. Minnesota Golden Gophers scored 25.0 points compared to allowed 8.8 points with point differential of 16.3.
But Jackson has hit the reset button and is picking Iowa to win the West. He acknowledges comparing non-conference play is not “apples to apples”, but at least there are examples unlike the blank slate before the season.
7-for-17 Northwestern on third-down conversions.
After halftime, Thorson pitched a deep ball to Solomon Vault, who appeared to make a spectacular one-handed catch for a touchdown. During the third quarter, Northwestern had possession of the ball for 11 minutes, 26 seconds.
Minnesota running back Shannon Brooks’ 3-yard touchdown run with 30 seconds remaining allowed the Gophers to top the Ohio Bobcats 27-24 at TCF Bank Stadium last Saturday. The Northwestern Wildcats are 4-0 and 3-1 against the spread.
“We got a lot more problems than just the quarterback”.
“(Croft) had to get game experience to know how things go in the game”, Maye said, “so going into next week we’ll see what happens”.
Minnesota might not be as good as folks assumed in the preseason, as the Gophers’ offense continues to struggle mightily.