Bowling Green kept the ball when Gophers needed it most

·3 min read

In P.J. Fleck's five years as Gophers coach, his teams have been successful when they use their running attack to control the pace of the game, eat minutes off the clock and limit opponents' offensive opportunities.

Upon first glance at the official stat sheet, that appeared to be the case Saturday with Minnesota holding the ball for 30 minutes, 23 seconds to Bowling Green's 28:30. A closer look, however, shows that the Falcons had the ball when the Gophers needed it most, with a fourth-quarter time of possession of 9:14 to Minnesota's 5:46. That played perfectly into Bowling Green's hands in its 14-10 upset victory at Huntington Bank Stadium.

Bowling Green's time advantage in the final 15 minutes came mostly from a possession that began with 13:28 left in the game and was extended by Gophers special-teams mistakes.

The Falcons had moved to their 40-yard line and faced fourth-and-8. Matt Naranjo's punt went 62 yards for a touchback, but Gophers defensive back Phillip Howard roughed Naranjo, giving Bowling Green the ball at the Minnesota 47.

Bowling Green drove five more plays to the Gophers 27 and brought in Nate Needham for a 45-yard field-goal attempt on fourth-and-5. Needham missed, but Gophers defensive tackle Val Martin was called for illegal formation for lining up over the long snapper. First down, Falcons.

Though the Gophers forced and recovered a fumble three plays later, the clock showed only 7:35 left, still time to score but with less margin for error.

Fleck was asked about the special-teams miscues.

"Yeah, they drive you crazy,'' he said. "They're preventable. It's not like we don't know that. But that's what I mean, and that's why it completely falls on me. And we made some mistakes today that were uncharacteristic of our football team, and I'm talking like our football team since we've been here.''

Autman-Bell limited to first series

Gophers wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell, who missed the season's first two games because of a lower leg injury but returned last week at Colorado, played only in the first series Saturday and spent the rest of the game on the sideline, testing the injured leg occasionally.

Fleck said he wasn't sure if Autman-Bell aggravated the previous injury. "I'll find out when we get the medical report,'' Fleck said.

* Cornerback Coney Durr was shaken up in the first quarter when hit by a Falcons offensive lineman but returned to the game and finished with four tackles and one pass breakup.

* Defensive end MJ Anderson, battling a leg injury, left the game in the second quarter, returned and left again in the third quarter.

* Linebacker Cody Lindenberg was on the sideline wearing a walking boot.

Etc.

* The Gophers saw their nonconference winning streak end at 21 games. It was the longest active nonconference streak in major college football. With its victory over Colorado State on Saturday, Iowa now has the longest streak in that category, with 15 consecutive wins.

* Defensive lineman Rashad Cheney Jr. did not play for the second consecutive week because of undisclosed reasons.

* Frank Jackson, who played safety for the Gophers from 1987-90, gave the speech at the captains' breakfast Saturday morning.

* The loss left the Gophers with a 2-2 all-time record against Bowling Green.

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