Sept. 25, 2021: In their final non-conference game of 2021, the Golden Gophers played just about as bad a football team can play falling 10-14 against Bowling… Green.
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Full Game Recap:
- Pregame/injuries: The Gophers were the healthiest they had been all season Saturday, with Mohamed Ibrahim as the lone significant inactive.
- First-Quarter: After exchanging opening drive punts, veteran linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin reeled in his first career interception; setting up a 36-yard field goal from Matthew Trickett, giving the Gophers a 3-0 lead. A rare keep from Tanner Morgan on a read-option led to a Minnesota turnover, but the defense responded with a quickly forced three and out.
- Second-Quarter: The Gophers’ tremendously slow start on offense bled into the second quarter. After P.J. Fleck opted to go for it on 4th & 1 on his own 29-yard line after burning an unnecessary timeout, Minnesota failed to convert giving Bowling Green terrific field position. The Falcons took advantage pulling ahead 7-3 with 6:19 remaining in the second quarter. The disastrous showing from the Maroon & Gold only got worse, as Tanner Morgan did not complete a single pass after the opening drive of the game, and Minnesota trailed 7-3 going into the half.
- Third-Quarter: Minnesota came out of the locker room with a different attitude. A long and methodical opening drive was capped off by a shocking 19 yard TD run by backup QB Cole Kramer on the redshirt sophomore’s first career carry. After a spectacular 53 yard run from Trey Potts, the Gophers’ were unable to capitalize with points, as Trickett failed to make a 52-yard field goal attempt. Bowling Green’s offense responded, after a long drive of their own QB Matt McDonald ran in his second touchdown of the day giving the Falcons a 14-10 lead.
- Fourth-Quarter: The fourth quarter was nothing new for Minnesota. After an early punt, Bowling Green was then bailed out by two Minnesota special teams penalties extending its drive. After getting inside of the Gophers’ 10-yard line, Braelen Oliver made the biggest play of the season and forced a fumble, giving Minnesota 7:30 to regain the lead. I don’t even have anything else for the quarter, the Gophers played very very bad, and Bowling Green played better.
Instant Reaction & Takeaways:
This was the worst game in the P.J. Fleck era and one of the worst losses in the program’s history. Bowling Green is a bottom 10 program in FBS college football. The Gophers just got thoroughly out-played, out-coached and out-toughed by a team that had not won a game against an FBS program since 2015. I have zero idea what just happened. P.J. Fleck just coached one of the worst games that I have ever seen. Decision making, adjustments and everything, I do not know what just happened.
This is the type of loss that dramatically impacts jobs, programs and players. Tanner Morgan just went 5-11 for 59 yards against Bowling Green. 30 of those yards came on the first drive of the football game. Everyone reading this likely watched the same game that I did, and I have no words. You can look at Chris Autman-Bell‘s injury and say that impacted the passing attack, but I don’t care if you have Randy Moss and he gets hurt you should never have 59 passing yards against Bowling Green. The offensive line got out-physical’d for 90% of that game. I will never talk about another man’s job, but something needs to change on this offense and you know who I am talking about.
As for the defense, the front seven continues to dominate. Boye Mafe and Thomas Rush have seven combined sacks over the last two games. While as a team, the Gophers have allowed 45 carries for only five positive yards over the last two games. But the secondary did get picked apart by Matt McDonald and Bowling Green… Bowling… Green. The defense did play relatively well, so ALL of this blame should go towards to offense.
What is Next?:
In all seriousness, the Gophers still control their own destiny. It is unfortunately not out of the norm for P.J. Fleck teams to underperform against less than stellar nonconference opponents. They played like a top-25 team in the country against both Ohio State and Colorado but played like a bottom 25 team against Miami (OH) and Bowling Green. The last time I checked, nonconference games do not count against your conference record. This is a team-defining loss, but all hope is not officially lost.
Now that I have said that, my hope is lost. I don’t know how you can mentally come back from a loss like this. P.J. Fleck is supposed to be the greatest motivator in the country, and he will certainly have his hands full for the rest of 2021.