Minnesota’s Upset of Northwestern Changes Perceptions
The Golden Gophers have been a team that is easy to overlook. Prior to last weekend, their schedule made you question whether they'd win a single conference game. While the team will still need to pull an upset somewhere to become bowl eligible, their victory at Northwestern makes this team look a bit more dangerous than it did just four days ago.
Northwestern had been something of a media darling. The school has lacked the kind of support to make it competitive with the better programs in the Big Ten. Yet the Wildcats seemed to find ways to maximize their talent which led to a Gator Bowl victory and ten wins in 2012. The "other NU" started 4-0 this year before a surprisingly competitive outing with unbeaten Ohio State. Northwestern fell back to earth a bit after getting pounded by Wisconsin but still appeared to be among the better teams in the conference.
Conspicuously absent from the box score against Minnesota were Wildcat quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark, arguably the two biggest playmakers on the team. Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian had a miserable day, committing three turnovers, taking three sacks, and managing a pedestrian 5 yards per pass attempt.
Meanwhile, Golden Gopher signal caller Philip Nelson came in to relieve starter Mitch Leidner and had an efficient day on the way to the 20-17 Minnesota victory. The Gophers also got 103 yards rushing from running back David Cobb along with a 21-yard reception. Most importantly, they did not commit a turnover in the game.
This could be the week we see Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez return from his turf toe injury. To dodge Northwestern's fate, he (or Tommy Armstrong) will need to avoid a Siemian-like outing. Minnesota has been good at stopping the run, so NU can't simply abandon the pass and expect Ameer Abdullah to do everything.
The Golden Gophers may not be a great team, but they've now shown that they are one that require an honest effort to defeat.