There were plenty of issues for both the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Northwestern Wildcats going into today’s Big Ten contest in Evanston, IL. Minnesota’s defense, led by defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman, proved today that they should be considered the least of those issues.
The Golden Gophers held Northwestern to just 94 yards rushing on 26 attempts, and forced three turnovers to make a pedestrian effort by the Minnesota offense stand up.
Actually, it was the Golden Gophers’ defense that got Minnesota to the 20 points they put up on the scoreboard. It was a 24-yard interception return by Minnesota linebacker James Manuel near the end of the third quarter gave the Golden Gophers the lead for good.
Hageman was another individual for the Minnesota defense that made a huge impact. His three knockdowns and one interception of passes by Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian helped limit the Wildcats to just 17 points for the game. While performances like this have been the norm for Hageman, this was above the Minnesota defense as a whole on average.
The Golden Gophers came into today’s game averaging allowing 383 yards of offense and 24 points to its opponents. Today, Minnesota allowed just 328 and 17 on the road. Looking even deeper, the Golden Gophers came into today’s game allowing their opponents to convert 43 percent of their third down attempts. Today, they let Northwestern convert just 6-of-16 third downs, a mere 37 percent.
The biggest number that suggests today was the best performance of the season for Minnesota on defense was those turnovers that they forced. Coming into the contest, the Wildcats had all of seven in six games. Developing this defense into a unit that can consistently play with this level of efficiency will enable the Golden Gophers to compete in a Big Ten filled with quality defenses.
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