If you’re wondering how a 31-point favorite could lose to a team which hadn’t beaten an FBS opponent in two years and hadn’t won on the road in three seasons, well, the Minnesota Gophers offered a blueprint Saturday.
Minnesota shockingly fell at home to a Bowling Green team which had lost 10 consecutive games to FBS teams, 14-10, and had no one to blame but itself.
It didn’t help that two plays into their first drive the Gophers, already without star running back Mohamed Ibrahim, lost wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell for the game. But this Minnesota team beat Miami (Ohio) without the pair and thumped Colorado last week.
Minnesota had a couple of drives thwarted by third-down sacks. Another, after a long run by Trey Potts, stalled and ended in a missed 52-yard field-goal attempt.
That last play gave the Falcons decent field position and they ended up scoring a touchdown.
It wasn’t the only time Minnesota gave Bowling Green a short field. Earlier, the Gophers went for it on fourth-and-1 from its own 29-yard line midway through the second quarter and, perhaps due to hubris, had quarterback Tanner Morgan in a deep shotgun hand off to Potts, who was met immediately and lost five yards. Presented with a gift on the Minnesota 24, the Falcons took advantage and scored their first touchdown.
Minnesota perhaps thought it could bully its way to a win – Morgan attempted only 13 passes. His last two were intercepted, thus writing the final chapter and how a 31-point favorite loses.
Here's a recap of Saturday’s game:
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Minnesota’s defense held up for the most part, allowing just the two touchdowns on short fields. Bowling Green had just 192 yards total offense and only 22 rushing. Linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin led the effort in both the run and pass game. He led the Gophers in tackles with eight and his interception set up the Gophers’ first score, albeit a field goal. Sori-Marin also had a pass breakup. All-around solid effort.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT ME
In his third year at Minnesota, quarterback Cole Kramer had only touched the ball handing if off in mopup duty for Morgan in 2019. But there he was on the field in the third quarter on a third-and-2 from the Bowling Green 19. He took the snap and headed upfield, angling a bit to his right where a nice hole opened for the junior, who ran all the way to the end zone for Minnesota’s lone touchdown. Kramer got another snap in the fourth quarter, running for a first down on third-and-2. Not a bad debut, so to speak.
We mentioned the fourth-down call above, which was clearly a huge play in the game. But Minnesota had a chance to win late, getting the ball at its own 35 with 2:19 remaining in the game needing a touchdown to win. On the first play, Morgan tried to go deep to Dylan Wright – and he appeared to be open – but the quarterback got absolutely clocked as he threw the ball. The hit affected the throw, which ended up floating up short and was intercepted. That pretty much sealed the Gophers’ fate. They’d get the ball back again but with only 23 seconds left and Morgan threw a game-ending pick.
The Gophers had won 21 consecutive games against nonconference opponents, which was the longest active streak in the country. P.J. Fleck had won 13 of those. Now the number is back to zero after falling to a Bowling Green team which hadn’t beaten a Power 5 team since 2015.
THEY SAID IT
“We couldn’t have played it any worse. You have to give Bowling Green a lot of credit because they did a lot of things to create a lot of issues for us, but we could never get in a rhythm. We didn’t take care of the football and we were not disciplined in a number of different ways. I thought the defense played really hard, but we just couldn’t get into any rhythm. ... We just did not play well at all and that is the story of it. It falls on me. This is my responsibility and my fault. I apologize to our fans and apologize for everyone’s Homecoming. This is something we will learn and grow from, but again, it is all on me.” -- head coach P.J. Fleck
“I have to play way better. We talk about being the reason at the quarterback position, today I was the opposite of the reason. It’s 100% on me. Now I just have to respond and respond better than I ever have.” -- quarterback Tanner Morgan
“I feel like we had a good week of work, we just need to show up on Saturdays. It doesn’t matter how much you prepare if you can’t get it done in games. We just have to be better moving forward." -- linebacker Jack Gibbens
“I am hurting. They kicked my ass. They are a great team, great defensively up the front, and we knew that going into the game. It was probably my sloppiest game, but we made the plays that mattered. We found a way to win and got it done.” -- Bowling Green quarterback Matt McDonald
With nonconference season now over, it’s back to Big Ten play and a road game at Purdue on Saturday at 11 a.m. The Boilermakers are 3-1 with wins over Oregon State, UConn and Illinois. The loss was to 4-0 Notre Dame on the road. Purdue squeaked by the 1-4 Illini on Saturday, 13-9, and used two quarterbacks during the victory. Minnesota, 2-2, has won its last thee games against Purdue and seven of the last eight dating back to 2012.