After playing one of the top teams in the country close last week, Northwestern took a step back in Minneapolis, falling 31-3 to the Golden Gophers. Similar to last season’s matchup, Minnesota ran all over the Northwestern defense, tallying over 250 yards on the ground. The Northwestern offense also struggled, and Brendan Sullivan and Ryan Hilinski both exited the game with injuries. See whose stock went up and down in a day where the ‘Cats could not find many positives.
Washington was the best player on offense for the Wildcats; in the first half, he had five receptions for 91 yards, including a 49-yard reception that ended up giving Northwestern their only points of the half.
Washington finished as Northwestern’s leading receiver for the second straight week. He finished the day with six receptions for 97 yards in a day where the offense struggled.
The sophomore got his first career start at Huntington Bank Stadium with Bryce Gallagher out with a concussion, and he filled the part pretty well. The Lake Forest, Ill. native, who has not been featured much in the Jim O’Neil defense, had easily his most impactful game of his collegiate career.
Unfortunately, Uihlein was ejected for a targeting penalty with 4:36 left in the first half. While he had a promising first start, it was cut short. He finished the day with five tackles, including one solo.
The sophomore had a pretty decent first half, only missing one pass that arguably should have been caught by Donny Navarro III. Sullivan’s best throw of the first half was a 37-yard sling to Marshall Lang, and overall, the quarterback was able to complete his passes when necessary and not make many mistakes.
He left the game in the first half with an injury, and appeared for one drive in the second half before being permanently replaced by Ryan Hilinski, Carl Richardson and Cole Freeman.
Honorable Mention: Devin Turner, bending-not-breaking on defense, Declan Carr, Rod Heard II’s run defense, purple-white-white uniform combo, shirtless warmups
Northwestern’s offensive line
The line struggled mightily in this game, including a fourth down in which it was run over by the Minnesota defense. The Evan Hull rush would have set up Northwestern inside the 15 in the first quarter.
In particular, right tackle Caleb Tiernan struggled against Minnesota’s defense and was the most noticeable on a Northwestern OL that did not have a good day. They were bullied by the Minnesota defense and did not give Brendan Sullivan or Ryan Hilinski much time to throw, and along with that, failed to open up holes in the run game at crucial points in the game.
Wrapping up and finishing tackles
There were many times in the game where Northwestern was able to get the looks it wanted, but Minnesota was able to pick up chunk plays due to missed tackles. Especially in the first quarter, the Gophers were able to gain big plays from Northwestern missing gaps or failing to wrap up.
This trend continued in the second half, as Minnesota players were constantly able to get away from Northwestern defenders. Specifically, Mo Ibrahim had his way against the Northwestern defense, as many of his yards came after contact.
The rush offense/defense
While the Wildcats were able to hold Mo Ibrahim for the first two drives, the Minnesota running back eventually found his way against the Northwestern defense. He was the feature (36 carries, 178 yards, three touchdowns) of a Gopher rushing offense that had 170 yards in the first half and 302 total.
On the other side, Northwestern’s rushing offense was nonexistent in the first half. Evan Hull had six carries for four yards, representing the entire Wildcat ground total. The second half was slightly better, but that’s compared to six yards in a half. At the end of the day, Northwestern had 72 yards on the ground on 22 carries.
Honorable Mentions: Injuries, defensive holding penalties, Popeye’s in Madison, Wis.