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GopherIllustrated GIF Rewind 2nd half: Northwestern

GopherIllustrated takes a look at Minnesota's home win 29-12 over Northwestern through GIF's of the plays that mattered in the second half.

Third quarter

Pass protection breakdown 

Minnesota tries to go play action on first down and take a shot deep, but once Leidner gets to the top of his drop, he's got guys on top of him. 

Definite miscommunication up front at center as Moore doesn't touch the defensive tackle until he's almost by him, and by that time he's in Leidner's face, and then Rodney Smith gets blown up on the right side. Leidner's able to carry the linebacker back to the line of scrimmage for five yards, but missed opportunity to take a shot deep to start the half. 

Pop pass with some good blocking

Gophers offensive coordinator Jay Johnson calls for the "pop" pass in jet motion on third down to Wolitarsky and it's almost is able to get a touchdown. Northwestern's defensive end isn't far enough up field initially and Wolitarsky runs right past him. Great blocking then springs Wolitarsky into the second level as Wozniak kicks out the linebacker, Carter gets enough of the corner and Rodney Smith lead blocks to take out the safety. 

Minnesota's able to get the ball at the three yard line. 

Short yardage issues continue

Rodney Smith never had a prayer here. 

Northwestern has more guys in the box than Minnesota can block, and the guys that are accounted for aren't blocked. Both guards are pulling, and Pirsig misses the cut, and Wright has him in his face before he can get there, so Smith the handoff and is forced to go horizontal where Anthony Walker is unblocked to make this a big loss. 

I'd really like to see some more play action at the goal line and there's one on one opportunities for pass catchers everywhere. 

Another targeting call against the Gophers

Minnesota's seventh targeting call of the season and this is 100% targeting. 

McGhee comes in extremely high and it's 100% helmet to helmet contact that leaves both players on the ground, and unfortunately knocks Austin Carr out of the game. 

McGhee has to lower his target here as he came in WAY too high and now Minnesota lost their starting safety for next week's first half against Wisconsin, and Carr is in the concussion protocol. 

Big Ten refs messing things up. Again. 

Wildcats go for it on fourth down again, and thanks to the awful spot from the Big Ten referee, Northwestern gets the first down. The Wildcat wide receiver comes back to the ball and should be spotted about a half yard shy of the marker, but the spot is terrible and it was looked at, but that's such a tough thing to overturn on replay as more times than not, it's going to remain the call on the field. 

Tough break for Minnesota there.

Northwestern gets on the board

Good play call from Northwestern as Minnesota's defensive line is slanting opposite of the Northwestern play call, so that's got Hank Ekpe going left and Northwestern going right and Justin Jackson cuts up underneath for Northwestern's first points of the day. 

Wildcats can't make it a one possession game 

And you thought that Minnesota's offense was conservative at times, check out this play call. 

Northwestern hadn't been able to run the ball most of the game to this point and they try moving it up the middle of Minnesota's defense, and the Gophers stop them for no gain. Richardson blows back the right guard, Myrick shoots the gap in between center and left guard and the right tackle plays patty cake with Coughlin, so he finds the ball as well, and Minnesota doesn't let the wildcats make it a one possession game. 

No Hardin spells trouble for Minnesota

With KiAnte Hardin out for the second half with an injury, Jalen Myrick goes back to return the kickoff, and is stripped by Anthony Walker at the 23. Walker was a preseason All-American for a reason, and some of that was his play-making ability you see here. 

Northwestern gets the ball back with fantastic field position. 

Big Ten refs are an absolute trip

If that's not a pick play on Kamal Martin, I have no idea what is. What route is that wide receiver supposed to be running that that he's able to throw a shoulder into Martin springing this play. 

It's not illegal man downfield on the right tackle as the pass is behind the line of scrimmage, but the pick on Martin is egregious. Luckily, Antoine Winfield sniffs out this play from the center of the field and stops Northwestern a yard short of the marker.

Fantastic pursuit and play recognition by Richardson here as well.  

What are you doing Pat Fitzgerald

I have no explanation for Pat Fitzgerald deciding to go for this on fourth down. 

On their previous drive, they went for the two point conversion to try and make it a one possession game, and why he wouldn't just kick of the field goal here to do that here with a whole other quarter to play is beyond me. 

Northwestern tries running some short crossing routes (play out of Minnesota's book tbh) and Kunle Ayinde is all over him and with pressure around him, Thorsen misses the throw. 

Still don't know why Fitzgerald left three points on the board here. 

Third quarter score: Minnesota 15, Northwestern 6

Fourth Quarter

Getting Brooks in space means good things

Gophers go trips right on third down and have all three receivers clear out space in the flats, and Brooks runs there out of the backfield, Leidner connects with him and Brooks is off to the races. 

I could watch that bottom GIF all day as Brooks jukes that Wildcat safety, leaving him grasping for air / cloth and he never finds. Minnesota's now in Wildcat territory. 

Leidner uses his legs for the first 

Minnesota's goes play action in the red zone on third down, and you can actually see Leidner go through his progression here. Eyes go from right to left, and he sees that no one is open (which they aren't), so he takes off with his legs and gets the first down. 

Going to give Rodney Smith a lot of credit here for showing no fear going against that Northwestern DE, allowing Leidner to step up. Leidner makes two men miss at the line of scrimmage and then falls forward for the first down. 

Jay Johnson, you sly fox

Now this is something I can definitely get behind. 

Gophers on their next play go play action again, but watch Drew Wolitarsky at the top of the screen. He's acting like he's coming down on a down block like he's done so many times, and then he breaks vertical to the surprise of the defensive back and Leidner's able to float it just over the linebacker for Minnesota's first passing touchdown since Penn State. 

I really hope to see this play again next week, but with a lot more green ahead of Wolitarsky. 

Cashman doesn't care for your screen

Northwestern tries to run a screen on third and long, and even if Blake Cashman isn't in Thorsen's face, this wasn't going anywhere. Richardson and Devers recognize it from the snap and Kamal Martin is also coming across to sniff it out. Neither the center or the left guard decide Cashman is worth blocking and he's able to run full speed ahead to get on Thorsen quickly. He's got some really good closing speed. 

Thorsen makes an NFL throw

Clayton Thorsen made this throw look way too easy. 

Throws it from the 20 yard line, opposite hashes, and drops it right in the bread basket across the field for the touchdown. I cannot stress enough how tough of a throw that is, and Thorsen made it look easy. He's got some big time potential ahead of him. 

Northwestern cuts the lead to 22-12. 

Two point is no good again

Let's go back to that decision by the Northwestern coaching staff to not take the points and go for it on fourth down. 

Say they do kick the 30 yard field goal, it's now 15-22 and the Wildcats are kicking an extra point here to make this a six point game. That decision essentially costs Northwestern four points as they decide to go for the back shoulder fade and the throw is inaccurate and it's still a two possession game. 

Still runs with the onside 

It's actually a pretty good onside kick for a collegiate kicker as the second bounce goes into the air, but it's right to Rashad Still. Still catches it, and sees that he's got green ahead of him due to some good blocking by Nick Rallis and Wolitarsky on the outside. It also helps that the man on Jack Lynn gives up, so Still runs with it and returns it 30 yards to the Northwestern 15. 

Leidner seals the game on read option

Not every play you're going to see stud Northwestern linebacker Anthony Walker get fooled on a read like he did here. Wozniak crashes the blitzing edge player down into the wash, and Walker gets caught watching Brooks here, which leads Leidner to pull it and run to green. 

Big credit to Drew Wolitarsky and Eric Carter here for holding their blocks down the field that allow Leidner to run in untouched. 

Leidner’s 32nd career rushing touchdown, a school record for quarterbacks, and ties him with Laurence Maroney (2003-05) for fourth on Minnesota’s all-time rushing TD list.

Cashman wraps up POW honors

It was a hell of a game for walk-on linebacker Blake Cashman and this play here about sealed his chances for Big Ten Defensive player of the week. Cashman had 10 total tackles (nine solo), two sacks, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble. 

Cashman lined up against the center here, disengages his hands and brushes him off, pushes the running back away and then turns on the burners to try and catch the quarterback and is able to do so for the sack. 

He's Minnesota's best blitzer and he's been putting on a show for the last three weeks. 

Final score: Minnesota 29, Northwestern 12

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