Gophers win third straight, 31-3, over Northwestern, climb into better spot in Big Ten West – InForum

MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota football team cooked up its traditional meat-and-potatoes recipe Saturday: the main protein of Mohamed Ibrahim running the ball, along with the sturdy starch of the Gophers’ no-nonsense defense.

Those stick-to-your-bones staples led to a 31-3 victory over a cold, flustered Northwestern in sparsely attended Huntington Bank Stadium.

The Spice’s breakthrough came before the start when once-Big Ten West-leading Illinois lost 31-24 to Purdue. The Illini’s losses over the last two weeks create a great opportunity for Minnesota and others to get back into contention for the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 3.

Minnesota (7-3) is now tied at 4-3 with the Illini, Boilermakers and Iowa in conference play. The Hawkeyes will visit Minnesota next Saturday after defeating Wisconsin 24-10 in Iowa City.

The Gophers’ three-game losing streak (Purdue, Illinois and Penn State) has kept them out of sight, but a three-game winning streak (Rutgers, Nebraska and Northwestern) has put them back in the mix.

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“I told our team a few weeks ago, ‘Listen, nobody’s talking about you,'” head coach PJ Fleck said. “You have not earned the right to let people talk about you. … But at the end of the day, if we play better and we make it one game at a time, we dig ourselves a big hole, and they’ve continued to do that every week.

NCAA Football: Northwest at Minnesota

Northwestern quarterback Brendan Sullivan (10) is tackled by Minnesota defensive lineman Kyler Boe during the first half in Minneapolis on Saturday. Sullivan was injured on the play and did not return.

Matt Krohn / USA Today Sports

To keep the protein metaphor going, if Ibrahim were a protein this Thanksgiving season, he’d be a turducken — a turkey stuffed inside a chicken duck. He is so delicious.

Ibrahim ran the ball 36 times for 178 yards and three touchdowns in just over three quarters on Saturday, advancing the Gophers and Big Ten record books in the process. The sixth-year senior also continues to make up for the Gophers’ lackluster passing attack.

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With Tanner Morgan out for the second game in a month, backup Athan Kaliakmanis hit his second career first home run. He wasn’t sharp, going 7-for-13 for 64 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions.

The Gophers’ defense was able to lock down dynamic Wildcats tailback Evan Hull, limiting him to 12 carries for 47 yards and three receptions for 13 yards before adding 31 yards in garbage time.

“It was our box — our D-line, our linebackers — that played unbelievable,” defensive end Tyler Nubin said. “They were getting off the ball, setting the edge, creating rebounds on the run, things like that made it a lot easier for us to contain (Hull).”

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By the fourth quarter, Northwestern was down for its third consecutive quarter. With Brendan Sullivan and Ryan Hilinski out, Carl Richardson was pushed into the field.

Northwestern couldn’t get anything going outside of the final drive of the first half. Sullivan hit top receiver Malik Washington for a 27-yard gain, but the quarterback pulled out of the drive midway through the game. Hilinski then hit Washington on a 49-yard completion.

NCAA Football: Northwest at Minnesota

University of Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim (24) runs for a touchdown against Northwestern on Sunday at Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Matt Krohn / USA Today Sports

Despite allowing two explosive plays, Minnesota held Northwestern to a 35-yard field goal. The Wildcats (1-9, 1-6) have just won all game and lost their ninth straight game.

One of the four currently leading programs will win the West.

“It’s the Wild West,” Fleck said. “There are really good football teams in the West. I think we are a really good football team.

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