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Gopher Hunt Successful - Wildcats Exterminate Rodents

Northwestern Gets Critical Sixth Win

The Minnesota Golden Gophers’ season got a little worse last Saturday. Northwestern’s season got a ton better at the same time. It was Wildcats versus Gophers, and just as one would expect in the wild, the Wildcats won. The Northwestern Wildcats chewed up the Minnesota Gophers 28 - 13. The scenario was slightly closer to The Good scenario from the preview (vice The Probable):

The Good:

The Golden Gophers pop up in Evanston, hoping to surprise the Wildcats. For their part, the Wildcats realize that this is the last game of the season in which they will be favored. (The spread is 15+ points.) One team wants to play the spoiler. The other wants to achieve bowl eligibility a record fifth straight year.

Minnesota is playing for pride. Northwestern is playing for a bowl.

Northwestern comes out of the gates hot. The Wildcats put up a quick six points (plus the conversion). The Gophers struggle to get the offense out of the blocks. Before the end of the first half the Wildcats are mauling the Gophers by three scores.

The second half begins much the same way that the first half did - the Wildcats in total control of the game. Coach Fitz pulls the first team early and starts to give the substitutes valuable game time. Somewhere between the Wildcat second and third teams, the Gophers start gaining some traction. The game seems more evenly matched. However, the Gophers cannot overcome a four score lead. But they make the end of the fourth quarter more competitive.

Final Score: Wildcats 42 - Gophers 20. It could have been much worse, but once again Coach Fitz shows class and allows the Gophers an honorable defeat. Northwestern finally makes it to bowl eligibility. Some of the partisan Wildcat fans grumble that Northwestern should have really run up the score to make the team more attractive to the bowls, especially if they drop the final game of the season. But that final game (against Michigan State) is looking more manageable.

Minnesota didn’t go down without a fight despite falling behind 21 - 7 in under a quarter. The Gophers fought back to 21 - 10 in the 4th quarter, but the Wildcats finally applied the coup de grace to go up by 18. Minnesota needed three scores with 11 minutes left. They got one - a field goal. Northwestern kept the pressure, not going conservative. (Earlier in the year I think the Wildcat coaches were too focused on not losing, which meant that they were not focused on winning. But that’s history.)

In the end, the Gophers were playing for pride. I think that they played hard and played fairly well - but not well enough to win. The largest single Gopher lapse was getting a third quarter pass intercepted in the end zone - by Brian Peters...who was essentially playing 1-handed (his other hand was in a cast).

Sometimes you’re the windshield. Sometimes you’re the bug.

The Wildcats’ close call/interception seemed to wake the Cats from a two plus quarter slumber. They charged down the field to get their final score, making a critical 4th and 6 in Gopher territory along the way. That was a 14 point swing - the Gophers getting intercepted in the end zone and then giving up a touchdown. It was the back breaker of the game.

This was a huge victory for Northwestern. It was expected - the Cats were favored. But the Wildcats have been favored before, and then lost. I’ve learned that being a Wildcats fan means you don’t take anything for granted. The win was their 4th in a row and their 6th overall. Getting to 6 wins gets you bowl qualified. But it doesn’t insure a bowl.

Getting a 7th win gets you an “insured” bowl. And to get that insurance will require beating the Michigan State Spartans - who happen to be the Pirate’s Division...err...Legends Division rep at the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game. This will be a challenge to say the least.

And that will be tomorrow’s preview.

Go Cats!

BJ Mitchell (Former NUMB Spirit Leader)
Twitter: @nuspiritleader.


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