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Minnesota Golden Gophers 2014 opponent profile: Northwestern

The Minnesota Golden Gophers play the Northwestern Wildcats in their first home conference game in early October.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers play the Northwestern Wildcats in their first home conference game in early October.
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Minnesota Golden Gophers play their fourth home game of the season - first in conference play - against the Northwestern Wildcats in early October.

2013 Record: 5-7 overall, 1-7 Big Ten

2013 Offensive Statistics: 26.2 points scored per game, 399.6 total offensive yards per game, 172.4 rushing yards per game, 227.2 passing yards per game, 20 turnovers, 35 sacks allowed

2013 Defensive Statistics: 27.1 points allowed per game, 423.5 total offensive yards per game, 167.3 rushing yards allowed per game, 256.2 passing yards allowed per game, 23 turnovers forced, 27 sacks

Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (55-46 in eight seasons as a head coach, all at Northwestern)

Key Offensive Players: RB Treyvon Green, WR Christian Jones, WR Tony Jones, RB Venric Mark, QB Trevor Siemian, SB Dan Vitale

Key Defensive Players: LB Chi Chi Ariguzo, S Ibraheim Campbell, LB Collin Ellis, DL Deonte Gibson, S Traveon Henry, DL Dean Lowry, DL Ifeadi Odenigbo, CB Nick VanHoose

Outlook: Last season, the Wildcats were decimated by injuries. A three-point road victory over the Illinois Fighting Illini saved them from the embarrassment of a winless conference record.

The Wildcats return a lot of key players, including most of their defense. On offense, quarterback Trevor Siemian now has full control. He is no longer splitting time with Kain Colter, who graduated. The most important returnee may be Venric Mark, who was granted another year of eligibility due to an injury that cost him most of last season.

In last season’s meeting, the Wildcats did not have either Colter or Mark and narrowly lost by a field goal at home. The Gophers continued their rushing dominance in the game with 176 yards while allowing just 94. However, the passing game followed trend as well with just 123 yards.

The Gophers got a big defensive touchdown on an interception return late in the third quarter to give them their first lead in the game. The Wildcats trailed by as many as 10 points twice in the fourth quarter before getting within a field goal with just over two minutes remaining.