Rosenblum: Not-so-golden Gophers a gift for NU

Jonah Rosenblum

As Wildcat Nation sits down at the Thanksgiving table this Thursday to revel in the glorious holiday that celebrates the couch potato like none other, perhaps Northwestern fans could be so kind as to offer thanks to Minnesota.

Cats fans ought to thank the Golden Gophers for the way they dropped the ball – both metaphorically and literally – in NU’s 28-13 win on Saturday.

I hate to take this win away from the Cats; they did some things well. Running back Jacob Schmidt ran with efficiency, the reborn offensive line carved giant holes for the backs and the NU defense was pretty good for the most part.

That being said, I didn’t think this was a particularly strong effort from NU. The Cats’ offense went dead for two quarters, a tendency that haunted them throughout their five-game losing streak. Quarterback Dan Persa threw an unusually bad interception, when he lofted a pass that Golden Gophers defensive back Kim Royston plucked right out of the air. And NU gave up 100-plus rushing yards to Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray and running back Duane Bennett – a rather impressive feat, to be sure.

But as many gifts as NU gave Minnesota, the Golden Gophers proved that they were the ones who were truly into the holiday spirit. First, there were the two turnovers deep in Cats’ territory. One, when Gray tried to whiz a ball through the heart of the NU defense, only to have it tipped into the hands – or should I say, hand – of senior safety, Brian Peters. The other was when Bennett fumbled at the Cats’ 25-yard line. Apparently, Peters is so good that he’s able to force fumbles with his head. Or Minnesota is just that bad.

But Minnesota did more than turn the ball over. Its wide receivers dropped pass after pass. In particular, I’m thinking of wide receiver Malcolm Moulton, who might just have to add a nice Christmas gift for Gray to his to-do list after his performance Saturday. On defense, the Golden Gophers apparently forgot that it was an 11:00 a.m. start, declining to show up to the game until noon. Yes, the Cats’ offense was silky smooth in the first quarter, but that doesn’t quite account for the gaping holes in Minnesota’s rush defense throughout the first quarter. Nor does it account for the Golden Gophers’ atrocious performance on special teams. Yes, the wind was bad, but the day a nine-yard punt is excusable is the day Rabbi Klein allows me to wear sweatpants to Shabbat dinner. Dan Orseske was so bad, they actually had to bring in the backup punter. When was the last time you saw that happen?

Perhaps we ought to be thankful for Minnesota’s general existence. In a conference of myriad football powerhouses in Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin, Minnesota offers a kindlier face. The Golden Gophers have gone through some pretty rough periods in their history, such as when they posted a losing record for eight straight seasons from 1991 to 1998, and it appears they are in another one of those rough phases now.

The funny thing is when there was talk of adding Rutgers or Maryland to the Big Ten, I was excited at the prospect of having an easy conference foe. But little did I know, we already had our punching bag. Long live the Golden Gophers! If one can even call 2-9 living.

Sports editor Jonah Rosenblum is a Medill senior. He can be reached at [email protected]