MINNEAPOLIS — Northwestern’s hopes of snapping an eight-game dropping streak at chilly Huntington Financial institution Stadium relied on holding its floor in a matchup of the Wildcats’ biggest weak point in opposition to Minnesota’s biggest power — the NU speeding protection versus Golden Gopher operating again Mohamed Ibrahim.
Ibrahim carried a streak of 17 straight video games with at the very least 100 speeding yards into the competition, whereas the Cats’ rush protection entered the afternoon ranked final within the Large Ten in speeding yards allowed per sport. The absence of junior linebacker Bryce Gallagher, tied for the Large Ten lead in whole tackles after NU’s 21-7 loss in opposition to Ohio State, additional tipped the scales within the Golden Gophers’ favor.
Like all too lots of the Cats’ opponents this season, Ibrahim turned his contest in opposition to NU right into a spotlight reel. The standout again accounted for 178 of Minnesota’s 302 speeding yards and scored three crimson zone touchdowns, main the Golden Gophers (7-3, 4-3) to a 31-3 win over an embattled Cats protection (1-9, 1-6).
“He’s a great back, so we knew it would take all of us to assist in and help bring him down,” senior defensive again Jeremiah Lewis stated. “He made some plays that we anticipated that we would make.”
With out beginning quarterback Tanner Morgan, Minnesota made its dedication to the bottom sport obvious early on. On the primary two drives, the speeding assault didn’t quantity to a lot — the Golden Gophers punted after three performs on each drives — however on the third drive, Ibrahim discovered his groove and made NU pay.
Using a mixture of decisive cuts, punishing hits on the Cats’ defensive backs and explosiveness by way of gaping holes in NU’s protection, Ibrahim powered Minnesota to a nine-play, 82-yard landing drive that featured a pair of 14-yard dashes and a six-yard rating.
“Early on in the game in the first half, it looked like we fit gaps well, tackled well,” coach Pat Fitzgerald stated. “Then they went to their split outside zone game. We were calling plays from the sideline and it looked like they blocked us and we missed some tackles.”
Two drives later, the sixth-year again continued punishing the guests by way of the mist of snow flurries. Ibrahim rushed 9 instances on the possession, changing three first downs and gathering his fiftieth profession speeding landing on a one-yard punch-in.
Make it 5️⃣0️⃣ TDs for @_MoIbrahim. 👏@GopherFootball x @GopherSports pic.twitter.com/ZzhaWDZVR0
— Large Ten Community (@BigTenNetwork) November 12, 2022
Ibrahim completed the half with 116 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. Together with 50 speeding yards from Trey Potts, Minnesota asserted its will by way of the operating sport, outgaining the Cats 170-6 in speeding yards and constructing a 17-3 lead regardless of simply 17 passing yards. NU junior operating again Evan Hull, a graduate of close by Maple Grove in suburban Minneapolis, couldn’t discover area in opposition to the Golden Gopher entrance seven and didn’t decide up greater than three yards on any of his first half carries.
“It starts up front,” Fitzgerald stated. “They’re patient, they bleed the clock and so when you give them a lead, you need to try to play up-tempo because they’re going to try to shorten the game.”
Although Ibrahim headed to the tunnel on the finish of the primary half a pair minutes early, he returned within the second half to etch his identify onto extra information and put the Cats away. One other one-yard landing to open the fourth quarter gave him his 18th of the season to tie the Gophers’ single-season mark and boosted the Minnesota result in 24-3.
NU knew precisely the problem that it confronted in lining up in opposition to Ibrahim, whom the Cats performed in 2018 and 2019. However the protection’s lack of ability to fill gaps and make essential tackles allowed Ibrahim and the Golden Gophers to play to their strengths and management time of possession.
“You’ve got to out-execute them,” Fitzgerald stated. “When you make them have to throw the ball and be multi-dimensional, it gives you a chance to make some big plays. But when they get a lead and can just pound it and shorten the game, it plays into their hands.”
After holding No. 2 Ohio State to its least productive offensive efficiency of the season to begin November, NU’s protection regressed and gave its followers one other acquainted outcome — a noncompetitive Large Ten loss on the highway.
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