Running back Isaiah Bowser ran for two touchdowns, quarterback Clayton Thorson rushed for another and the No. 22 Northwestern defense shut down the Minnesota offense as the Wildcats defeated the Golden Gophers 24-14 Saturday on a brisk 20-degree day in Minneapolis.
Bowser’s second score of the day capped a 92-yard, seven-play drive that gave the Wildcats some breathing room at 21-7 with both offenses struggling to get into the end zone.
On the ensuing series, Golden Gophers’ quarterback Tanner Morgan fumbled, his third turnover of the day. Northwestern capitalized and turned the mistake into a Jake Collins 29-yard field goal and a 24-7 Wildcats’ lead at the 7:49 mark of the fourth quarter.
Bowser finished the day with 85 yards on 29 rushes.
The Wildcats (7-4, 7-1 Big Ten) already have clinched a berth in the Big Ten Championship game. Minnesota (5-6, 2-6) needs a win next week against Wisconsin to become bowl eligible.
“We’ll never take our foot off the gas,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said before the game. “You have to work your tail off to win and stay consistent.”
And work their tails off, the Wildcats did.
Still, the Gophers had plenty of fight in them, despite trailing 24-7 in the fourth quarter.
Minnesota trimmed the deficit to 24-14 when Morgan found Tyler Johnson for a 6-yard score. Johnson came into the game leading the Big Ten with 948 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.
Johnson finished with eight receptions and 88 yards and his 10th touchdown on the season.
Northwestern got on the board first when Bowser ran 2 yards to put the Wildcats up 7-0 with 2:20 to go in the first quarter.
Minnesota finally cracked the end zone when Mohamed Ibrahim crashed in from a yard out to tie the game with 2:18 left in the half.
Thorson only needed 66 seconds to drive the Wildcats 55 yards to reclaim the lead. Thorson capped the drive with a 13-yard scramble and a 13-7 Northwestern lead after the point-after was missed.
The Golden Gophers had a chance to cut the deficit to three early in the third quarter, but Emmit Carpenter missed on a 38-yard attempt.
Tanner was unable to get untracked in the first half, completing just 10 of 19 attempts for 108 yards and two interceptions. He finished the day 19-of-32 passing for 197 yards.
—Field Level Media