Minnesota hasn’t scored at Ryan Field since 2013.
The No. 23 Northwestern Wildcats (8-3, 6-2 B1G) dominated the Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-6, 2-6) all afternoon, earning a 39-0 shutout victory. The last time the Gophers traveled to Evanston, they faced a ranked Northwestern squad and lost 27-0. Despite a new head coach and a team of fresh faces, the Gophers were even worse in 2017.
Justin Jackson had a day for the ages as he moved into 17th all-time in the NCAA in career rushing yards with 5,139. He also became the second Big Ten player to have 1,000 yards in all four seasons. He ended with 166 yards on the day. Clayton Thorson had an amazingly efficient stat line of 9-for-13 for 86 yards and 3 TDs. Meanwhile Nate Hall was one of many beasts on defense, recording 7 tackles, 3.0 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT and 1 fumble recovery.
Minnesota was atrocious on offense, only gaining 182 yards with most of it coming in garbage time. Quarterback Demry Croft was 2 of 11 for 43 yards and 3 interceptions while also getting sacked 5 times. The Gophers also turned the ball over five times on the day. It was a complete domination by Northwestern’s offense.
The game got off to a rollicking start with 2 straight punts and a turnover on downs. The most exciting moment of the first quarter was a 41-yard run from Justin Jackson to get Northwestern out of the shadow of its own goalpost. On the run, Jackson surpassed 5,000 career rushing yards, becoming the 6th player in Big Ten history to do so.
After another Minnesota punt, Jackson moved into 5th all time in Big Ten history on a 14-yard run that got Northwestern down to the Minnesota 25. The Wildcats then ended any thoughts of another M00N game in the second quarter with a 5-yard touchdown run from Jeremy Larkin.
With Northwestern up 7-0, Minnesota’s Kobe McCrary fumbled in Minnesota territory and it was recovered by Montre Hartage on the Gopher 36. A few plays later Garrett Dickerson increased the lead to 13 with an impressive 8-yard touchdown catch on a crossing route. The PAT was blocked.
Minnesota promptly responded with a three-and-out and a 19-yard punt into the wind. Northwestern took over at midfield, lost three yards and punted right back. Minnesota got pinned deep in its own territory and then Montre Hartage picked off a poorly-thrown out route from Demry Croft.
Two plays later, Jelani Roberts ran it in from 12 yards out on a jet sweep to increase the lead to 19-0. It was Roberts’ first career TD, but the two-point conversion was incomplete keeping it a 19 point lead.
Minnesota went three-and-out once again and a 27-yard punt gave Northwestern the ball at midfield with 2:34 left in the first half. The Wildcats ran the two minute drill to perfection, riding Jackson down the field before completing a 18-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Dickerson to make it 25-0. The two point conversion was no good once again, but Northwestern was still cruising.
At halftime Northwestern was out-gaining Minnesota 246-88, had the ball from almost 10 more minutes and had 14 more first downs.
The second half started off with the two teams trading punts before Minnesota got its first first down since there was 5:37 left in the first quarter. The Gophers followed that momentous occasion up with a sack, an incomplete pass, a 9-yard run from Croft and a punt from the Northwestern 43.
Northwestern punted right back but Croft was feeling generous and threw a pick to senior Kyle Queiro on the very next play. After a couple more Jackson runs, Bennett Skowronek caught a back shoulder throw for a 13-yard TD. Northwestern made the PAT this time to make it 32-0.
On the following possession Minnesota finally got the ball into the redzone on a 30 yard Rodney Smith rush, but couldn’t score thanks to another Croft interception. This one bounced off the hands of Phillip Howard and right to Nate Hall in the endzone.
As the 4th quarter started and we were told to put our hands in the air, the game was all but over. Both Clayton Thorson and Justin Jackson were replaced with the Wildcats up 32. Northwestern punted and Minnesota immediately fumbled the ball right back.
The next play was a 24-yard Corey Acker touchdown. The Wildcats were just stunting on the Wildcats at this point. Also, in a fun twist, graduate student Makay Redd kicked the extra point to put Northwestern up 39-0.
Minnesota (shockingly) punted the ball back to Northwestern and the Wildcats ran down the clock to 3:26.
Minnesota did nothing with its final possession and the game mercifully came to an end after one final punt.
Northwestern has now won six games in a row and will go for its 7th straight next week in Champaign, IL against the Illinois Fighting Illini.