EVANSTON-The nightmare continued for Northwestern, which lost its third straight on Saturday, a devastating 20-17 home loss to underdog Minnesota.
After starting the season 4-0, Northwestern now finds itself with an 0-3 record in the Big Ten, and a once promising season is quickly spiraling down the drain.
Here are WildcatReport's quick hitters:
Offensive game ball: Tony Jones. Northwestern's wide receiver finished with eight catches for 84 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown grab on a back-shoulder throw by Trevor Siemian with 3:17 left in the fourth quarter for the Wildcats' final points of the game. The bubble screen to No. 6 was probably the most consistent play for the suddenly anemic Northwestern offensive attack.
Offensive big play: For the second straight week, there were not many options to choose from. We'll go with a 12-yard Siemian-to-Christian Jones completion on fourth-and-10 at the Minnesota 34 to keep a touchdown drive -- and Northwestern's faint hopes -- alive in the fourth quarter. The drive ended with Tony Jones's touchdown grab to close the gap to 20-17.
Defensive game ball: Collin Ellis. The outside linebacker finished with nine tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss. Ellis also brought the lumber, delivering a couple thunderous hits on Gopher ball carriers.
Defensive big play: Nick VanHoose gave up his body to stop Philip Nelson on a third-and-11 run. Nelson got the better of VanHoose in the collision, but VanHoose stopped him four yards short of a first down, forcing Minnesota to settle for a field goal. VanHoose needed assistance to get back up, but he returned to the game later.
Turning point: The play that completely changed the complexion of the game was James Manuel's interception in the third quarter. Siemian stared down a slant route and Manuel jumped it, returning the pick 24 yards for a touchdown. That turned a 7-7 deadlock into a 14-7 Minnesota lead, and the Gophers never trailed again. To add insult to injury, Siemian fumbled after a sack at the NU 23 on the next drive to set up a Minnesota field goal.
Questionable call: Facing a fourth-and-4 at the NU 30 in the third quarter, Nelson hit Isaac Fruechte for an apparent touchdown, but the play was called back because of an offensive pass interference call against Drew Wolitarsky for his pick of a Northwestern defensive back. The Gophers wound up punting and the Wildcats dodged a bullet.
Stat of the game: Three and zero, the number of turnovers for Northwestern and Minnesota, respectively. The Wildcats came into the game leading the Big Ten in turnovers created and turnover margin, but the Gophers got the better of them on this day.
Unsung hero: Stephen Buckley. With Venric Mark out, the backup running back was the leading rusher for Northwestern, and he scored the first touchdown of his career to give the Wildcats a 7-0 first-quarter lead. He finished with nine carries for 58 yards, and his 33-yard run in the opening period was Northwestern's longest play from scrimmage.
Atmosphere: Well, last week's lackluster loss to Wisconsin took some of the wind out of Northwestern's sails, but 36,587 still showed up on a beautiful but windy day in Evanston.
More game coverage to come from WildcatReport…