Minnesota falls to Northwestern, 24-14

Three Gopher turnovers turn into 10 Wildcat points.

Posted: Nov 18, 2018 10:36 AM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — When he was an assistant at Northern Illinois, Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck once cold-called Pat Fitzgerald for a lunch meeting to learn about being a head coach.

A decade later, Fitzgerald and his Northwestern Wildcats are still teaching teams like the Gophers how to win in the Big Ten.

Isaiah Bowser rushed for 85 yards and two touchdowns, and No. 24 Northwestern turned three turnovers by Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan into 10 points on the way to a 24-14 victory on Saturday that stretched its program-record road winning streak to eight games.

"The teams that win in our league are the teams that have the sustainability over the long period of time," Fleck said. "You have to earn that, but they have that."

Clayton Thorson completed 15 of 21 passes for 230 yards without a turnover and had a 13-yard touchdown run in the first half for the Wildcats (7-4, 7-1, No. 22 CFP), who have their best Big Ten record since 1996 when Fitzgerald was in his final season as a player.

Nate Hall had two interceptions for the Wildcats, who have won 14 of their last 15 conference contests, including 11 games in a row against opponents within the West Division they clinched the week before. Hall, who also made the tackle on a fourth-and-1 stop of Seth Green at the Northwestern 26 in the second quarter, was ejected for targeting on a helmet-to-helmet hit on Morgan in the fourth quarter.

"A very businesslike championship-type approach to the week culminated with a very businesslike win," Fitzgerald said. "I thought our guys were very focused."

Mohamed Ibrahim rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown and Blake Cashman had a sack among his career-high 20 tackles for the Gophers (5-6, 2-6), who fell to 4-13 in conference play under Fleck.

With a kickoff temperature of 23 degrees, which was actually slightly warmer than when Minnesota beat Purdue here last week , Thorson and the Wildcats played the field-position game well. The secondary missing three injured starters complemented a strong pass rush led by Joe Gaziano, who forced a fumble by Morgan with a sack in the fourth quarter, setting up a short field goal.

That came right after a 68-yard completion on third down from Thorson to J.J. Jefferson, who slipped past freshman safety Jordan Howden and was tackled at the 2 before Bowser's second score.

Morgan finished 19 for 32 for 197 yards and a late touchdown pass to Tyler Johnson, who topped the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Minnesota's streak of four straight games with 400-plus total yards, the longest for the program in more than 12 years, was stopped.

"They're fighting for bowl eligibility. We knew we were going to get their best shot," Fitzgerald said. "That's what jumps out to me so much about our defense."

MONEY MAN

Cashman, a senior playing in his final home game, had a career performance. Fleck said he planned to have the team review all 20 of the former walk-on's tackles this week to be reminded of what full effort looks like.

"I'm very excited to see where this team goes," Cashman said, "and one day I'll come back here and I think we'll see a lot of success."

POLL IMPLICATIONS

After cracking The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time this season following last week's win at Iowa , Northwestern will remain a ranked team for now. The Wildcats aren't part of the College Football Playoff conversation, but to be headed for the Big Ten championship game in December after losing at home to Akron and starting the season 1-3 in September is quite an accomplishment.

The Gophers were actually favored by two points on the final betting lines.

"That was a joke," Fitzgerald said, adding: "The level of respect for the guys in that locker room is not very high because of a couple games earlier in the year."

THE TAKEAWAY

Northwestern: Fitzgerald implored his team to maintain a "pedal-down" mentality despite the outcome of this game having no bearing on the Wildcats' bid to become Big Ten champions and reach the Rose Bowl. Right after the Gophers tied it with 2:18 left in the first half, they responded with authority. Kyric McGowan had a 39-yard kickoff return, and Thorson followed two straight completions with his untouched run into the end zone to take the lead for good.

"Our guys came in on Monday and were ready to go," Thorson said.

Minnesota: With a freshman quarterback, limiting turnovers this season was bound to be one of the biggest challenges for the Gophers. They entered the week with a minus-6 margin that was the second-worst in the Big Ten.

"I've got to play better, 100 percent no question about it," Morgan said.

UP NEXT

Northwestern: Hosts Illinois next Saturday. The Wildcats have won five out of the last six meetings.

Minnesota: Plays next Saturday at Wisconsin, where the Gophers have lost 11 straight times since 1994.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 456490

Reported Deaths: 6174
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Hennepin947071506
Ramsey40752750
Dakota33684355
Anoka31437368
Washington20627237
Stearns18137190
St. Louis14032251
Scott1224899
Wright11831107
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Sherburne831970
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Clay661384
Rice625674
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Crow Wing491178
Otter Tail465468
Chisago461838
Benton424388
Winona395648
Douglas380366
Nobles374847
Mower374729
Goodhue359163
Polk330860
McLeod328947
Beltrami316648
Morrison314845
Lyon306340
Becker290039
Itasca288043
Isanti286543
Carlton285243
Steele279610
Pine270815
Freeborn254923
Todd233730
Nicollet230938
Brown219134
Mille Lacs216145
Le Sueur215016
Cass211024
Meeker201733
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Martin172126
Roseau166617
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Houston141114
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Cottonwood129218
Fillmore12838
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Rock112212
Aitkin111633
Faribault110316
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Pennington101316
Kanabec100118
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Red Lake3214
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Lake of the Woods1991
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Cases: 313284

Reported Deaths: 4437
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Linn18187280
Scott15975172
Black Hawk14184243
Woodbury13161181
Johnson1234453
Dubuque11678159
Pottawattamie9204115
Dallas915472
Story886638
Cerro Gordo476172
Webster475077
Warren463939
Clinton461068
Sioux460757
Marshall433262
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Muscatine397379
Des Moines396243
Plymouth354270
Wapello353098
Jasper335159
Lee327132
Marion312253
Jones275650
Henry269931
Carroll258934
Bremer251048
Crawford235524
Boone224717
Washington224333
Benton214550
Mahaska198937
Jackson196532
Tama191659
Dickinson189429
Kossuth182244
Delaware177736
Clay173421
Wright167824
Fayette166824
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Hamilton162930
Winneshiek161420
Harrison159162
Hardin158731
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Clayton154349
Butler152524
Page148715
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Mills139017
Lyon138233
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Iowa128522
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Winnebago123329
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