Gophers Drop a Close One
October 2, 2010

On Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers were denied the last and best chance for the team to win another game in this dismal season when the team lost to Northwestern. The Wildcats are sure to finish no better than in the middle of the pack when the Big Ten season ends.

Northwestern’s Stefan Demos kicked a 27-yard field goal with 2:07 remaining and the Wildcats thwarted Minnesota’s final drive to escape with a 29-28 victory in the Big Ten opener for both schools on Homecoming Day.

Minnesota’s DeLeon Eskridge ran for 119 yards and a touchdown, and tight end Eric Lair caught the first two touchdowns of his career, but the Wildcats rallied from a 28-20 deficit with 12:15 left in the game for the victory. The Gophers still had a chance to move for the winning field goal, but an ill-fated two-minute drill devised by coach Tim Brewster resulted in quarterback Adam Weber throwing an interception on a pass tipped by his receiver. As a result, the Gophers dropped their fourth consecutive home game to fall to 1-4 overall and 0-1 in the Big Ten.

“It’s hard to find words right now. It’s just gut-wrenching to lose that football game today, with the effort that our kids put into it,” Brewster said. “We just didn’t make the play to win the football game.”

Northwestern jumped out to an early 7-0 lead against the Gophers. Following a Minnesota punt, the Wildcats drove 67 yards in just four plays, with Dan Persa hitting Tony Jones on a slant pattern for a 45-yard touchdown at the 12:11 mark of the opening quarter.

The Gophers forced the first of three Wildcat turnovers in the game, as defensive tackle Brandon Kirksey forced a Northwestern fumble that was recovered by linebacker Aaron Hill. Two plays later, Gophers quarterback Adam Weber hit a wide-open Duane Bennett along the Northwestern sideline for a 38-yard touchdown.

After Northwestern took a 14-7 lead on a 12-yard run by Mike Trumpy with 7:49 remaining in the first quarter, the Minnesota defense held the Wildcats scoreless over the next 26-plus minutes to take a 21-14 halftime lead into the locker room. Minnesota tied the score on an eight-yard pass from running back Duane Bennett to Lair, and Eskridge put the Gophers in front with a four-yard scoring run with 0:59 left in the half.

The Wildcats pulled within one point early in the third quarter, as Jacob Schmidt scored from a yard out, but the point-after was wide left, keeping the Gophers in front, 21-20.

Minnesota stretched its advantage to 28-20 with 12:15 left in the game on a 25-yard pass from Weber to Lair. It was Weber’s 61st career touchdown pass.

But Northwestern rallied, pulling within two points on a 25-yard pass from Persa to Jeremy Ebert, and then getting the late field goal from Demos to seal the win. It marked the second time in Brewster’s four seasons that the Gophers have dropped a hard-fought one-point decision versus the Wildcats, as Northwestern edged Minnesota, 49-48, in double overtime during the 2007 season.

“The kids played their hearts out and did a lot of things well, obviously, but not enough to win,” Brewster said. “That’s the disappointing thing. These kids are absolutely crushed.”

The Gophers will now prepare for their first road game since opening the season with a win at Middle Tennessee State. Minnesota now travels to Madison to face the Wisconsin Badgers in the annual Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe. The Gophers face the daunting task of stopping the relentless Badger running attack. It could get ugly.

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