Gophers Fall to Lowly Bowling Green 14-10
September 25, 2021

In what may be their worst game since losing to South Dakota in 2010—a game that sealed the doom of coach Tim Brewster—the Minnesota Gophers lost to Bowling Green 14-10 in Minneapolis. Head coach P. J. Fleck needn’t worry about his job status; however, coming off an impressive 30-0 win at Colorado and coming in a 31-point favorite against the Mid-American Conference Falcons, coming out with a loss qualifies as a figurative laying an egg.

In a moribund first half for the offense of both teams, Minnesota got its only points in the half after a first-quarter interception by Mariano Sori-Marin gave the Gophers the ball on the Bowling Green 23. Unable to advance the ball, the Gophers settled for a 36-yard field goal by Matthew Trickett.

The Falcons were little more effective on offense in the half but also benefited from a short field. With only one first down through the first 21 minutes, Bowling Green took over after the Gophers went for it on fourth and one from their 29. Treyson Potts was stuffed for a loss of five. Matt McDonald floated a second-down pass to tight-end Christian Sims at the 5 and, two plays later, ran it into the end zone himself for a two-yard touchdown for a 7-3 lead that the Falcons carried into the second half.

Bowling Green had only 1 net yard rushing in the first half. McDonald was 9 for 19 passing for 64 yards with one interception. Minnesota had 94 yards from scrimmage with half of those coming on the ground from Treyson Potts. Tanner Morgan completed 3 of 7 passes for 32 yards.

Minnesota received to start the second half and got the ball at its 43 after a 34-yard kickoff runback by Mar’Keise Irving. After a 10-yard holding penalty moved the Gophers back to the 33, Morgan hit Daniel Jackson for a 25-yard gain to the Bowling Green 42. Potts ran for a first down on a third-down play and moments later the Gophers faced third and 2 again, this time at the 19. Backup quarterback Cole Kramer entered, took the snap, and made his first career run, slashing through the right side for a touchdown to put Minnesota up 10-7.

Minnesota got the ball back after 43-yard punt by Matt Naranjo rolled dead at the 9. (In the first half, Naranjo hit a 77-yard punt that bounced into the end zone, the longest punt in stadium history.) On the first play, Potts ran 54 yards to the Falcon 37. Minnesota could do little more, and Trickett was wide to the left with a 52-yard field-goal attempt.

Starting from their 35, the Falcons mounted their only sustained drive. On a fourth and 1 on their 44, McDonald rolled right and ran for 18 yards, nearly breaking it before being tripped by linebacker Jack Gibbens in the Minnesota 38. McDonald hit Taron Keith for a gain to the 5 and, two plays later, ran in from the 3 for his second touchdown of the game, one that put the Falcons back in the lead at 14-10 with 31 seconds left in the quarter.

The fourth quarter was marked with penalties and turnovers. Minnesota had to punt after a cornerback blitz by Davon Ferguson sacked Morgan for a nine-yard loss. In the first half, Ferguson had been called for targeting, an infraction that would have removed him from the game. However, a review of the play changed the call to no foul, and Ferguson was able to stay in and vex the Gophers and their stagnant offense.

Bowling Green got a first down but were stopped on their next series. Naranjo rolled a 62-yard punt into the end zone with just over 10 minutes left, but Phillip Howard was called for roughing the kicker, extending the drive. It stalled again, and Nate Needham was wide with a 45-yard field-goal attempt. However, Minnesota was flagged for an illegal formation – Val Martin having lined up over the long snapper – giving the Falcons a first down at the 22. On third and 7, McDonald completed a pass to tight-end Christian Sims at the 8. Sims had the ball forced loose by Braelen Oliver, and Terell Smith recovered, giving the ball to the Gophers on the 8 with 7:35 left.

With Kramer returning for another run on third down to get to the 32, Morgan came back in and could do little more. A punt gave the Falcons the ball back on their 27 with 3:33 left.

Minnesota had all its time outs left and used two of them to stop the clock and force another punt. Fleck sent in Potts in place of Brock Annexstad, hoping the speedy running back could break a big return. Potts didn’t have a chance as Naranjo’s 42-yard punt rolled out of bounds at the Minnesota 27 with 2:31 left. The Falcons were flagged for illegal formation on the play. The Gophers opted to have them punt again and came out a bit better in field position, although the subsequent punt took another 12 seconds off the clock and also nearly resulted in disaster.

Potts ran up on Naranjo’s punt and tried to catch it at his ankles. He wasn’t successful and the loose ball rolled in and out of the possession of the Falcon’s before Minnesota’s Justin Willey finally recovered it at the 35.

Morgan gave the ball right back as he misfired on a downfield pass to Dylan Wright, the ball instead being intercepted by Devin Taylor at Bowling Green’s 35 with 2:13 left. Minnesota used its final time out but the Falcons ran off as much time as they good before having to punt. The Gophers got the ball back at their 27 with 23 seconds left. On the next play, Morgan threw another interception, this one to Jordan Anderson. McDonald took a knee to run out the game.

In yards from scrimmage in the game, Minnesota outgained Bowling Green 241 to 192.

Potts led the rushers with 141yards on 27 carries. The Falcons had only 22 net yards on the ground, Jaison Patterson leading with 20. McDonald was 19 of 35 passing for 170 yards and one interception. Morgan completed 5 of 13 for 59 yards with two interceptions. Sims led the receivers with 6 catches and 51 yards.

Now 2-2, the Gophers return to Big Ten play with a trip to Purdue next week.

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