Scores

Final

(20) Minnesota 42

(6-0, 2-0 Big Ten)

Northwestern 17

(2-4, 0-2 Big Ten)

12:00 PM ET, October 4, 2003

Ryan Field, EVANSTON, IL

1 2 3 4 T
#20MINN 0 21 14 742
NW 14 3 0 017

Two long TD passes get Gophers going

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) -- Minnesota scarcely resembled the Big Ten's highest-scoring team for much of the first half Saturday, failing to manage a single first down against lowly Northwestern for more than 21 minutes.

Asad Abdul-Khaliq

AP Photo

Abdul Khaliq aired it out long twice to Jared Ellerson.

Then the Gophers (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 Associated Press) struck suddenly, on a game-changing 96-yard bomb from Asad Abdul-Khaliq to Jared Ellerson, and didn't stop on their way to a 42-17 victory.

Abdul-Khaliq threw for three touchdowns and Marion Barber III ran for two as Minnesota improved to 6-0 (2-0 Big Ten) for the first time in 43 years heading into a Friday night matchup at home against No. 9 Michigan.

"I was very pleased with how the game turned out, but I wasn't very happy with how it started," Gophers coach Glen Mason said. "The first quarter was the worst quarter of football from my perspective I've ever been associated with as a coach. ... The positive was no one panicked, no one started pointing fingers."

The nation's third-leading rushing team produced 241 yards on the ground, 43 yards below its season average. But the passing attack keyed a big-play offense, carrying the Gophers to 572 total yards despite the slow start.

Abdul-Khaliq, the Big Ten's leader in passing efficiency, missed on four of his first five passes before finishing 12-for-17 for 331 yards. Two of his TDs came on fly patterns to Ellerson -- the school-record 96-yarder and another for 82 yards.

Barber's pair of 31-yard scoring runs, accounting for most of his 77 yards, gave him 13 TDs for the season. That tied a school record in just six games.

Minnesota had just 8 yards on its first four possessions. Backed up at the 1 and trailing 14-0 near the midway point of the second period, the Gophers appeared in danger of losing to Northwestern (2-4, 0-2) for the sixth time in eight years.

But on third down from the 4, Abdul-Khaliq dropped back into the end zone and heaved a pass down the right sideline to Ellerson, who was 15 yards behind the nearest defender after cornerback Jeff Backes tripped and fell. Ellerson's TD made it 14-7, and he said the Wildcats' attitude clearly changed with the big play.

"Yeah, you could see it in their eyes after that," he said. "They were scared. They saw we started getting on a roll."

Three minutes later Barber raced untouched around left end to tie the score. Then following an interception by Justin Fraley near midfield, the Gophers took the lead for good at 21-14 on an 8-yard pass from Abdul-Khaliq pass to Ben Utecht.

Northwestern closed to 21-17 on a 39-yard field goal by Slade Larscheid just before halftime, but Abdul-Khaliq hit Ellerson on the 82-yard play on the second play of the second half and the Wildcats never threatened again.

Barber skirted right end seven minutes later to make it 35-17. A 32-yard TD pass from Abdul-Khaliq to Aaron Hosack was the only scoring of the final quarter.

Northwestern dominated both lines in racing to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Jason Wright ran in from 12 yards out and quarterback Brett Basanez scored on a 2-yard keeper. The Wildcats were in Minnesota territory again when Basanez's pass was picked off at the 38 by Eli Ward -- a play Mason said was key because "it gave us some confidence that we could play a little defense."

After amassing 146 yards on offense and 10 first downs in the opening period, the Wildcats managed only 138 yards and five first downs the rest of the way.

Basanez was 19-for-32 for 196 yards and two interceptions. Northwestern's rushing attack averaged just 2.2 yards a carry for 76 yards.

"We got it rolling" in the first half, coach Randy Walker said. "Then we just had a couple of setbacks ... and the air came out of the balloon.

"They made some big plays, and big plays are disheartening. I felt like we gave this one away, and I think our kids felt that way."

Northwestern wide receiver Kunle Patrick caught a pass in his 40th straight game -- the longest such streak in the nation.

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Team Stat Comparison

 
MINN
NW
1st Downs2015
Total Yards572284
Passing331208
Rushing24176
Penalties5-295-44
3rd Down Conversions7-137-17
4th Down Conversions0-00-0
Turnovers02
Possession30:2629:34

Passing Leaders

MinnesotaC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTQBR
Abdul-Kh...12/1733119.540-
NorthwesternC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTQBR
Basanez19/321966.102-
Webb2/2126.000-

Rushing Leaders

MinnesotaCARYDSAVGTDLG
Tapeh13816.2023
Barber III11777.0231
NorthwesternCARYDSAVGTDLG
Wright15513.4112
Herron5204.0011

Receiving Leaders

MinnesotaRECYDSAVGTDLG
Ellerson418947.3296
Utecht46416.0132
NorthwesternRECYDSAVGTDLG
Jordan45413.5030
Wright45112.8037

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERMINNNW
TD10:16JASON WRIGHT 12 YD RUN (SLADE LARSCHEID KICK)
Drive info: 10 plays, 63 yards.
07
TD3:45BRETT BASANEZ 2 YD RUN (SLADE LARSCHEID KICK)
Drive info: 13 plays, 62 yards.
014
SECOND QUARTERMINNNW
TD8:48JARED ELLERSON 96 YD PASS FROM ASAD ABDUL-KHALIQ (RHYS LLOYD KICK)
Drive info: 3 plays, 99 yards.
714
TD5:16MARION BARBER III 31 YD RUN (RHYS LLOYD KICK)
Drive info: 5 plays, 74 yards.
1414
TD2:31BEN UTECHT 6 YD PASS FROM ASAD ABDUL-KHALIQ (RHYS LLOYD KICK)
Drive info: 4 plays, 53 yards.
2114
FG0:04SLADE LARSCHEID 39 YD FG
Drive info: 8 plays, 36 yards.
2117
THIRD QUARTERMINNNW
TD14:09JARED ELLERSON 82 YD PASS FROM ASAD ABDUL-KHALIQ (RHYS LLOYD KICK)
Drive info: 2 plays, 80 yards.
2817
TD7:06MARION BARBER III 31 YD RUN (RHYS LLOYD KICK)
Drive info: 6 plays, 79 yards.
3517
FOURTH QUARTERMINNNW
TD8:02AARON HOSACK 32 YD PASS FROM ASAD ABDUL-KHALIQ (RHYS LLOYD KICK)
Drive info: 9 plays, 69 yards.
4217