Bison Trampled Gophers in Many Ways

North Dakota State helped the Gophers achieve a new level of frustration after being dominated by a program with far fewer advantages than Minnesota.

Coach Tim Brewster made it clear that he doesn't think his team should be playing North Dakota State. Given what transpired, that's probably a good idea.

In what will go down as one of the lowest points in program history, the Gophers were dominated in every way, shape and form by the Bison, who avenged a heartbreaking loss last season with a 27-21 victory at the Metrodome.

The Gophers were overpowered by a team that is a member of the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA), has 22 fewer scholarship players and does not have one player who was offered a scholarship to Minnesota.

The Bison (7-0 and ranked No. 1 in the FCS) stormed into town with a huge following of fans, took the Gophers' money ($300,000 payout) and used a punishing running game to hand Minnesota its sixth consecutive loss.

The loss also officially eliminated the Gophers (1-7) from bowl game consideration, meaning they will be home for the holidays for the first time since 2001.

This was as bad as it gets.

"This is very, very frustrating," linebacker Steve Davis said. "Most of us have never been a part of a losing team. This year has come as a huge surprise. It's disappointing but we've got four more games."

NDSU rushed for 394 yards (including a school-record 263 by Tyler Roehl), rolled up 585 total yards and had an edge in time of possession by nearly 14 minutes.

The final score could have been even worse if not for two missed field goals, a turnover that led to a touchdown and a roughing-the-passer penalty that led to a touchdown.

That's how one-sided this game truly was.

"Today didn't happen by chance," Bison coach Craig Bohl said. "It was no fluke."

The Gophers thought they had one final chance to steal a victory, but senior Dominique Barber was called for roughing the punter with one minute 40 seconds left. The Bison kept the ball and ran out the clock for the victory.

The Gophers offense didn't help the cause. Freshman quarterback Adam Weber completed only 10 of 22 passes for 162 yards and one touchdown. The Gophers managed only 125 rushing yards on 30 carries, lost starting tailback Jay Thomas to a knee injury and had four three-and-out series.

NOTES

GAME BALL GOES TO: LB Deon Hightower — Making only his second career start at middle linebacker, Hightower finished with a team-high 13 tackles, including 10 solo and two for loss.

KEEP AN EYE ON: TB Duane Bennett — True freshman should get the bulk of carries this week after starter Jay Thomas suffered a knee injury and backup Amir Pinnix still nursing two injuries. Bennett rushed for 31 yards on eight carries and had three catches for 71 yards and one touchdown against NDSU.

LOOKING GOOD: Not much looks good for Minnesota at this point. The Gophers are 1-7 and would be 0-8 if not for a missed field goal by Miami (Ohio) in overtime in Week 2. The home loss to NDSU will go down as one of the lowest points in program history.

P Justin Kucek leads the Big Ten in punting and was good again Saturday. He averaged 41.3 yards on six punts and pinned two inside the 20.

LB Steve Davis had his best game after moving from defensive end this offseason, finishing with 10 tackles.

STILL NEEDS WORK: Defense, defense, defense. The Gophers already own the nation's worst pass defense, but they gave up 394 rushing yards, the seventh highest total by an opponent since 1982.

CB Jamal Harris, a senior, was benched for the second half after missing several tackles in the first half.

WR Ernie Wheelwright had only two catches for 33 yards and had the ball taken out of his hands for an interception in the fourth quarter.

ROSTER REPORT:

Tailback Jay Thomas suffered what appears to be a torn ACL in his right knee on a 15-yard run. Thomas tore the ACL in his left knee as a freshman.

LB John Shevlin suffered a stinger and did not play in the second half.

DE Willie VanDeSteeg (broken wrist, shoulder injury) played only a few snaps.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We just weren't good enough. They were just more physical than we were." — Gophers coach Tim Brewster on his team's inability to stop NDSU's running game.


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