Nov. 27, 2021: Already eliminated from the Big Ten West race, Minnesota still came out strong against Wisconsin coming out on top 23-13.
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Full Game Recap:
- First-Quarter: After receiving the opening kickoff, Tanner Morgan had a solid start to what could be his final game at Huntington Bank Stadium — completing 5 of his 6 pass attempts for 35 yards. The Gophers’ 7:29 minute opening-game drive resulted in a 28-yard field goal from Matthew Trickett. Wisconsin responded with a long offensive drive of its own, and the quarter ended with the ball still in the Badgers’ hands.
- Second-Quarter: After a plethora of penalties on both sides of the ball, Wisconsin wasn’t able to punch in a touchdown and ultimately settled for a field goal, evening the ball game at three. Morgan was picked off for six Wisconsin points on the first offensive play, and Minnesota quickly tried 10-3. Morgan, Bucky Irving and the Gophers offense responded with another field goal narrowing the deficit to 10-6. While the ref show continued, Minnesota’s defense continued to play at a high level forcing a Wisconsin punt on the following drive. After exchanging punts the Gophers trailed 10-6 going into the half.
- Third-Quarter: The Gophers could not have had a bigger start to the second half. After a massive Justin Walley INT, a big reception from Brevyn Spann-Ford set up a Ky Thomas TD and Minnesota regained a 13-10 lead. Minnesota’s defense continued to have incredibly resolves on the following drive, holding Wisconsin to a field goal, evening the game at 13. Morgan and the offense continued to move the ball down Wisconsin’s world-class defense. A 27-yard touchdown from Chris Autman-Bell gave Minnesota a 20-13 lead.
- Fourth-Quarter: After a Gophers punt, the defense came up big again, forcing another Wisconsin field goal, but this time it bounced off the front crossbar! The Gophers took advantage and another Trickett field goal gave them a 10 point lead with just over 10 minutes left in the game.
Instant Reaction & Takeaways:
That was the best defensive performance of the season for a Gophers unit that has played at a high level all season. Wisconsin RB Braelon Allen was “reportedly dealing with an ankle injury”, but Minnesota’s defense held the freshman phenom to season-low 47 rushing yards, since week five when he officially took over as the top man. Allowing only two scoring drives all game, the defense was terrific, especially true freshman CB Justin Walley who put together probably his best performance in a Gophers uniform. Inversely, Tanner Morgan had one of his best performances of the 2021 season completing 11 of his 16 passes for 199 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Outside of his early INT, failing to commit many mistakes at all played a massive role in the Gophers coming out on top.
Minnesota’s incredible resolves on the defensive side of the ball was ultimately what won this football game. Making huge plays when it mattered most was massive in keeping the momentum on the home side for much of the game. Gophers DC Joe Rossi should have as good of an argument as any to be the top assistant in college football this season. His continued adjustments and gameplans have been superb all season and this week was no different.
As for the offensive side of the ball, it was one of the most balanced attacks that Minnesota has had all season. It was not a dominant day on the ground, with only 83 yards, but that was against the best-run defense in college football. The pure execution on both ends of the football was arguably the best the Gophers have had all season. Tanner Morgan was certainly not spectacular, but outside of his early interception, this was one of the most mistake-free games this team has had all season.
What is Next?:
Heading into this week, the Gophers were predicted to play in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix, Ariz on Dec. 28 against West Virginia. With a win today I guarantee they will be playing in a better bowl game than that. In hindsight, it is obviously even more frustrating that Nebraska blew its lead against Iowa, or the Gophers would be getting ready for the Big Ten Championship game.
It is certainly frustrating that this team will be playing in nothing more than a bowl game after an 8-4 season, with three insanely disappointing losses against Bowling Green, Illinois and Iowa, but it is terrific to see this season end on a high note with a massive win over Wisconsin at home for the first time since 2003. Nothing else should matter this is a massive win for this team and a massive with for the program. Better dead than red.