Gophers’ special teams stun Wildcats, re-ignite fans to remain undefeated in Big Ten play

The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers hosted the Northwestern University Wildcats on October 11, 2014 at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus. Minnesota has a very tough second half of the season and entered the game with a 4-1 record, their only loss to the Texas Christian University (TCU) Horned Frogs in the non-conference portion of the schedule.

The Gophers, coming off a bye week, were “supposed” to beat the Wildcats by many commentators at the beginning of the season. The Wildcats, however, have been turning heads and defeated Penn State and Wisconsin and entered the game with a 2-0 Big Ten record. Suddenly commentators were not so sure that the Gophers would have such an easy time with the game.

Northwestern outplayed Minnesota in almost every offensive statistic including 28 first downs (to Minnesota’s 14) and the Wildcats converted two of three fourth down attempts. The Wildcat offense racked up 393 yards, 269 through the air and 124 on the ground.

The difference in the game was special teams, specifically a 100 yard kickoff return by Jalen Myrick to answer a fourth quarter Northwestern run by Trevor Siemian, capping off a 13 play, 97 yard Northwestern drive to tie the game and quell the crowd at TCF Bank Stadium. Myrick fielded the ensuing kickoff just inside his end zone and, in electrifying fashion, hit the holes that were opened by the kick return team and exploded through a final block to finish a 100 yard touchdown run and re-ignited the Gopher crowd just 13 seconds after it was silenced.

Minnesota’s running attack picked up 121 net yards, led by David Cobb with 97 yards on the ground, averaging 3.2 yards per carry. Cobb had an early touchdown overturned after video replay showed his knee touched the ground at about the one inch line. Quarterback Mitch Leidner, with the help of the offensive line, willed the ball over the goal line on the following play, scoring the touchdown. Leidner scored twice running the ball and picked up 31 net yards and averaged 4.4 yards per carry.

The Gopher passing game showed up for the first time this year. The Gophers passed for 153 yards including a 52 yard pitch and catch from QB Mitch Leidner to TE Maxx Williams in front of the Wildcat sideline. Five different Gophers caught passes and Williams and receiver Isaac Fruechte made Mitch Leidner look good by catching the passes that were thrown them (an issue earlier this year) while Leidner improved greatly by placing the passes where the receivers could get their hands on the ball.

Minnesota improves to 5-1 on the year and, more importantly, remain undefeated (2-0) in Big Ten play. The Gohpers will host the Purdue Boilermakers on Oct. 19 for their homecoming game. Stay tuned to The Minnesota Sports Report for news and photos from around Minnesota.


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