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Northwestern 7, Minnesota 7: halftime thoughts

Two ugly quarters of football yielded two touchdowns. Northwestern and Minnesota are tied 7-7 at the break.

-- Minnesota and Northwestern traded short, unproductive drives early on, with neither side able to get anything going on offense. Northwestern broke the deadlock with just over two minutes remaining in the first quarter, when Stephen Buckley carried four times for 54 yards on a seven-play, 72-yard touchdown drive. That was the highlight of Northwestern’s first-half offensive performance.

-- An 11-play drive spanning 4 minutes 17 seconds at the beginning of the second quarter looked promising, but Northwestern was stood up in Minnesota territory and punted. The Gophers responded with an 82-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 29-yard scoring grab from senior receiver Derrick Engel. Before the drive, Minnesota made a change at quarterback, inserting Phillip Nelson for dual-threat Mitch Leidner, who earlier this week was named the starter over Nelson, a superior passer.

-- A 31-yard Brandon Williams punt gave Minnesota favorable field position (49-yard line) just before the half. The Gophers moved into field goal range, but Chris Hawthorne missed his 44-yard attempt after Pat Fitzgerald "iced" the senior kicker with two timeouts.

-- With just under seven minutes remaining, Northwestern began a drive from its own 25-yard line, and quickly advanced near midfield thanks to a 24-yard reception from Tony Jones. The drive ended when Minnesota star defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman dropped into coverage and snagged a Siemian pass at peak height. Quite the athletic feat for the 6-6, 311-pound future first-round pick.

-- The offense was predictably bland, at least comparatively speaking, without quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark. Trevor Siemian completed 8-of-15 passes for 87 yards, which isn't terrible (it's also not very good), but his inability to recognize (and react to) pressure – coupled with his reluctance to throw the ball away when scrambling outside of the pocket – has hurt Northwestern’s offense. The Wildcats’ ground game is having more success than it did last week against Wisconsin, for obvious reasons: Minnesota’s run defense isn’t very good.

-- After two weeks of getting very little push or pressure on the opposing quarterback, Northwestern’s defensive line was active and disruptive. Redshirt freshman Ifeadi Odenigbo notched his third sack of the season and tackle Chance Carter followed up his strong performance in Madison last week with a solid first half.