Gophers beat Northwestern 31-3 despite passing game struggles

Nov. 12, 2022: Despite redshirt freshman QB Athan Kaliakmanis struggling (7/13, 64 yds/4 car, 28 yds), Mo Ibrahim was able to lead Minnesota past Northwestern 31-3

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Full-game Recap:

  • First-Quarter: Athan Kaliakmanis got the starting nod at QB for the Gophers. After exchanging a pair of punts to open the game, Northwestern was first to get things going off a 37-yard pass, but the Gophers’ defense responded, taking over on downs on their own 20-yard line. That was the momentum shift they needed, driving 82 yards on only 9 plays and Mohamed Ibrahim found six for the first points of the day. Gophers led 7-0 after one.
  • Second-Quarter: After opening the second quarter with a punt, the Gophers got the ball back and drove all the way down the field. 11 plays and 60 yards later Ibrahim got his second TD of the day giving Minnesota a 14-0 lead. It looked like the defense would close the half on a high note, but Northwestern added three points to the board before the Gophers ran out the clock, with three timeouts in their pocket.
  • Third-Quarter: After driving down the field to open half No. 2, the Gophers added a field goal from 41 yards away; Matthew Trickett made it 17-3. Just as it seemed Northwestern would get on the board, Minnesota answered with arguably its more impressive drive of the day, 59 yards and 12 plays later.
  • Fourth-Quarter: Mohamed Ibrahim opened the final quarter of play with his 3rd touchdown on the afternoon. True freshman RB Zach Evans was able to see the field for the first time this season and he added his first career TD, making it 31-3 Gophers.

Instant Reaction & Takeaways:

Athan Kaliakmanis played like a QB making his second career start today. He certainly continued to show his potential with great scramble ability and remarkable arm talent. But his communication with pass catchers just seemed completely out of sync all afternoon. Overall, I don’t think this performance should tell you anything more than that he still has some ways to go. Don’t get me wrong there is still PLENTY to like about his future, but crowning him the next Johnny Manziel might’ve been a step too far.

Other than the passing attack, I was thoroughly impressed with the rest of the team’s performance. The offensive line has put together an impressive three-game stretch, easily its best play since September. The defense is finally figuring out how to get pressure on the quarterback and Mo Ibrahim continues to be Mo Ibrahim. Defensively, Jah Joyner and Cody Lindenberg continue to impress me as young players that have had solid second halves, while Terell Smith and Tyler Nubin look like NFL-level talents in the secondary. I think there is a real chance that the Gophers are favored in their final two games of the season and it’s for good reason, this is a good football team.

What is next?:

The Gophers will now look ahead to a pivotal rivalry matchup, welcoming Iowa to Huntington Bank Stadium in the annual battle for the Floyd of Rosedale. I would warn fans to not be shocked if we see Tanner Morgan start under center bearing his health. In his final home game in a Gophers uniform, I personally would be shocked if we don’t see at least a little bit of him if healthy.

After Purdue beat Illinois earlier today, the Gophers have a realistic path to a Big Ten West title. If Illinois and Purdue lose at least one of their final two games and the Gophers close out with two wins, they would be traveling to Indianapolis. With that being said, I think an Iowa/Wisconsin sweep and a 9-3 record would be more than enough to please most Gophers fans.

After falling to 4-3 after the Penn State game Minnesota is now 7-3 with plenty to play for down the stretch of the season. QB is still a serious question mark, but this team has a chance to finish 2022 on a serious high note and build some more momentum heading into 2023.

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