Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck said Monday the players’ job on homecoming week is to not be distracted by events surrounding Saturday’s game against Bowling Green.
“Leave it up to somebody else to decorate the gym and pick out what punch we’re going to drink, whatever it is,” Fleck said. “For us, our job is to go out there and put a great product on the field.”
But the football program didn’t do its one job, losing 14-10 at Huntington Bank Stadium. When trailing 7-3 at half, U players and coaches ran off to a smattering of boos.
Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck told the team in the locker room after the game: “Whatever you felt like could be some of the worst football we could have played, we just put it out there.”
Two long streaks were snapped: Minnesota’s 21 straight nonconference wins and Bowling Green’s 10 consecutive losses to FBS teams dating back to November 2019.
Last week, roughly 10,000 Gopher fans traveled to Colorado and were treated to a fun-loving 30-0 shutout of the Buffaloes in Boulder. With that convincing win, it looked like Minnesota could go on a winning streak well into the restart of Big Ten play next week.
“(We) couldn’t have played any worse,” Fleck said on the radio postgame.
The Gophers put Bowling Green on its schedule back in November 2017, and they will pay the Mid-American Conference school $1.45 million for the trip. Given the Falcons recent struggles, the U’s organizers did their part putting the expected cupcake up as its homecoming opponent.
But the U stuck up the joint Saturday. Minnesota had three turnovers, allowed four sacks and suffered seven penalties, some coming at the worst times. They were also bailed out at time by Bowling Green, which has 70 players that graduated in 2020 or 2021, but the breaks stopped coming.
Minnesota had only 94 yards of total offense in the first half and lost its top receiver Chris Autman-Bell to an ankle injury on the first drive. They finished with a paltry 241 yards, and the passing offense dragged them down.
Veteran QB Tanner Morgan completed only 5 of 13 passes for 59 yards. Morgan fumbled after a 18-yard gain in the first half and had two interceptions in the second half. The offensive line struggled with blitzes and stunts, forcing Morgan into four sacks and getting hit while throwing his second pick.
Bowling Green scored its first-half touchdown after Minnesota’s offense failed to convert on fourth-and-1 from its own 29. The line was beat and Trey Potts had to eat a 5-yard loss.
The U responded early in the third quarter with backup quarterback Cole Kramer coming in for a play and rushing for a 18-yard score, the first of his career. It gave Minnesota a 10-7 lead.
But Bowling Green retook the lead at 14-10. To set up the score, the Falcons converted on 4th and 1 with Matt McDonald breaking free for an 18-yard gain on a naked bootleg. McDonald then scored on a 3-yard draw.