Minnesota vs. Northwestern: Same Old Story
October 13, 2012

The script for the annual Minnesota-Northwestern game was written in the first 11 seconds of the match. Minnesota’s Lamonte Edwards fumbled the opening kickoff, and the Wildcats’ C.J. Bryant recovered. On the first play from scrimmage, Venric Mark ran untouched for a 26-yard touchdown.

That was it. Game over. All that remained was for Northwestern to increase the lead to 21-10 and hang on for a 21-13 victory, aided by David Nwabuisi’s interception of a MarQuis followGray pass followed by Mark’s 48-yard touchdown romp. For the day, Mark danced past Gopher defenders for 182 net rushing yards.

This scenario was written decades ago following hundreds of Gopher football losses. Northwestern, in particular, is adept at playing the opponent in this gridiron drama. The Wildcats have made Minnesota the patsy in the last six years, winning by scores of 49-48, 24-17, 29-28, and 28-13. We’ve all seen this show before. This one had the added feature of Gopher head coach Jerry Kill’s hospitalization following a seizure after speaking to reporters.

“We had two turnovers,” Kill said in his post-game press conference. “They scored 14 points, so that’s the game. “Our team has no margin for error, and we made bad errors. The team that makes the fewest errors usually wins.”

The Gophers fumbled seven times. Northwestern had zero fumbles.

“It’s critically important to win the turnover battle,” said Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald. “Our quarterbacks [Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian] took care of the ball.” Colter completed all 10 of his passes for 63 yards.

“They hit us with some big plays,” Kill recalled, “when we had somebody in the wrong gap.”

The dwindling number of Gopher football fans had reason to hope for a win over Northwestern. After all, the team was unbeaten at home, facing an undersized opponent. Minnesota was coming of a bye week, and it was Homecoming.

Las Vegas oddsmakers, on the other hand, are realists, not impressed with Minnesota’s 4-0 record against non-conference foes.

They witnessed first- hand the Gophers stumbling around in the desert in the team’s less-than-impressive overtime win over lowly UNLV. Northwestern was made a three-and-one-half point favorite, a somewhat conservative margin. Needless to say, the Gophers failed to cover the spread.

Something else entered into oddsmakers’ thinking: Minnesota’s track record since 1967. The Gophers are one of a group U.S. college football teams that traditionally under perform. In football, Minnesota ranks with the programs at Duke, Indiana, Syracuse, Virginia, SMU, Kentucky, Kansas, Wake Forest, Iowa State, and other teams whose glory lies in the past but who now slog along in mediocrity. At least, most of those schools can boast superior basketball teams. Minnesota? Well, we have a pretty good hockey team.

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