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Five key takeaways from Northwestern’s unsurprising loss to Minnesota

It’s officially HAT week!

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a Malӧrt Bowl victory, the ‘Cats took to Ryan Field for one final time this year. After falling behind 21-0,Northwestern was simply too outclassed by the Golden Gophers to make the comeback. Here are five takeaways from Northwestern’s unsurprising but unfortunate Senior Day loss to Minnesota:

Joe Gaziano is officially a Northwestern legend

Yesterday, Joe Gaziano played his final game at Ryan Field and simultaneously cemented his name in the Northwestern record books.

Following a fantastic 67 yard punt by Andrew David which pinned the Gophers at their own six, Gaziano sacked Tanner Morgan for a six yard loss, recording Northwestern’s first points of the game thanks to forcing intentional grounding from the Minnesota end zone and becoming the ‘Cats’ all-time sacks leader in the process by reaching 29 sacks across his legendary career.

Coincidentally, the first sack of his career also recorded a safety, via this absolute massacre from 2016. On the day, Gaz recorded six total tackles, including four solo tackles, one and a half sacks and two and a half tackles for loss.

Andrew Marty might be the QB of the future

Oddly enough, Hunter Johnson started the day at quarterback, adding to the mystery of his season. Johnson didn’t finish the game, though, as he was took a massive hit from a free blitzer that injured and eliminated him from the game at the start of the second quarter.

On Marty’s first series of the game, he manufactured a 14 play, 69 yard drive that chewed up six and a half minutes of playclock and resulted in a nine yard touchdown catch from Jace James. On the day, Marty threw just 10 passes, but completed eight for 95 yards and one touchdown. To add to that, he carried the ball 16 times for 52 yards and two scores.

Regardless of result, there’s no doubt Marty played a very solid game and will most likely start the season finale at Illinois next weekend. Additionally, with the recent news about Aidan Atkinson, we might want to get a little accustomed to seeing Marty (or somebody else unexpected) under center over the next few seasons.

Tanner Morgan is very good at football

Tanner Morgan was on concussion protocol this past week. Saturday morning, he was cleared to play against the ‘Cats.

Yesterday, Morgan attempted just 23 passes, but completed 15 for 211 yards and a whopping four touchdowns, including some gorgeous deep passes and some perfectly placed slants. He threw just a single interception, on a phenomenal play by Blake Gallagher.

Yeah, this kid can ball.

Minnesota’s WR duo is one of the best in the country

Speaking of good players, Minnesota’s wideout combination of Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman is one of the pairs in the FBS on the outside, and that was on full display today against the thoroughly outmatched Northwestern secondary.

For the game, each receiver caught seven passes from Morgan. Johnson earned 125 yards and a touchdown, while Bateman pulled in his seven grabs for 78 yards and three scores. Only one other Gopher caught a pass from Morgan, which went for eight yards and was pretty unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

On the year, both Johnson and Bateman have now surpassed 1,000 receiving yards. Additionally, each of them has caught 10 touchdown passes. If you haven’t been keeping an eye on these guys by now, they’re certainly worth watching as the Golder Gophers march into the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe.

Northwestern’s WR core… is not

On the other side of the ball, Northwestern’s wide receiver, and their passing game as a whole, continues to struggle. Just last week against UMass, Riley Lees was the only player to catch a pass for the Wildcats, pulling in seven for 76 yards and no touchdowns. Luckily, the heroics of Evan Hull were able to propel the ‘Cats to a Malӧrt Bowl W.

That simply wasn’t the case, though, against a Minnesota team that doesn’t even look like they play the same sport as the Minutemen. Against a much better defense, Northwestern got the ball moving a bit on the ground, but failed to make practically any explosive plays, and the passing game once against disappointed.

Riley Lees led the way for the ‘Cats with just three catches for 53 yards. No other Wildcat caught more than one pass, with the longest being a single Malik Washington grab for 11 yards. Yuck.