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Game Recap: Northwestern Fumbles Second Straight Game, Falls 41-14 to Minnesota

A largely nonexistent passing game, combined with the team's inability to slow the Gophers' running game cost the Wildcats the game.

Northwestern lost their second straight game in as many weeks, this time to Big Ten West No.1 seed Minnesota, 41-14.

The defense for the Wildcats to start the game was impressive. Although the Gophers were able to get down the field, Northwestern did a great job of defending in the red zone. The first and third drives of the game for Minnesota both ended in field goals.

The major problem for the Wildcats was their offense. In the first half it was largely a mix of turnovers and three and outs. Their first play of the game was a five-yard pass that junior wide receiver Malik Washington fumbled and led to Minnesota running it in immediately for the easy touchdown.

The only bright spots for the team in the first half were the duo of senior quarterback Andrew Marty and sophomore running back Evan Hull. Marty was subbed in for junior quarterback Ryan Hilinski in the second quarter and immediately sparked the Northwestern offense. He ran for a quick 10 yards and threw a short six-yard touchdown to Hull.

In a surprising move, head coach Pat Fitzgerald opted to bring Hilinski back into the game to close the second quarter after Marty’s scoring drive.

Hull also made his mark on the offense with a few explosive plays. The highlight of his first half was a 30-yard run that helped get the Wildcats down the field.

Just before the second half ended the Gophers finally broke through Northwestern’s red zone defense as freshman running back Mar’Keise Irving rushed for three yards and a touchdown to give Minnesota a 20-7 lead heading into the half.

Northwestern finished the first half with only 76 total yards, 11 passing yards and 65 rushing yards.

Marty was reinserted for the Wildcat offense to open the third quarter. Northwestern travelled 46 yards down the field before failing to convert on third down. The two sides followed that drive up with back-to-back three and outs. When Minnesota got the ball back they were able to string together a successful drive of 11 plays for 71 yards capped off by an 18-yard run by senior quarterback Tanner Morgan. The run by Morgan put the Gophers up 27-7 to start the fourth.

Minnesota added to their lead later in the fourth on a quick three and a half minute drive that saw the Gophers get down the field on only five snaps. Irving exploded for 41-yard touchdown run, giving Minnesota a 34-7 lead.

Marty followed that by leading his own successful drive in just under three minutes. Hull was a big part of the drive, running for 40 yards on this drive alone. Senior wide receiver Berkeley Holman caught the 17-yard touchdown pass from Marty to make the score 34-14. 

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The Wildcats have lost six of their last seven conference games, tumbling to ninth in the standings and trailing Purdue by one game for the final Big Ten Tournament berth.

The Gophers scored the final touchdown of the game as Derik LeCaptain broke a couple tackles on his way to a 24-yard touchdown run to put the cherry on top for the Minnesota.

Northwestern struggled to get any yardage through the air, which had Fitzgerald searching for answers. The Wildcats ended the game with only 98 total passing yards between the two QBs. Hull was arguably the only bright spot for the team, running for 107 yards.

Another deficiency for Northwestern was their ability to stop the run. Heading into the game the Wildcats ranked last in run defense and in this one the Gophers ran for () yards. Irving and redshirt freshman running back Ky Thomas led the attack for Minnesota, combining for 216 yards and two touchdowns. The Gophers ran for a total of 308 yards. Minnesota also held possession for 40 of the total 60 minutes of the game.

The schedule isn't getting any easier for the Wildcats as next Saturday they will host No. 9 Iowa Hawkeyes at Ryan Field.

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