Northwestern’s skid hits nine as top two QBs go down

Brendan Sullivan and Ryan Hilinski left with injuries, forcing the Wildcats to turn to Carl Richardson before Cole Freeman played the final series.

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Brendan Sullivan gets sacked by Braelen Oliver (14) and Cody Lindenberg (45) in the first quarter Saturday in Minneapolis.

Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

MINNEAPOLIS — It has been a season to forget for Northwestern, but at least it has been able to score a touchdown in every game.

That came to an end against a stingy Minnesota team in a 31-3 loss Saturday. It was the Wildcats’ ninth consecutive loss after opening the season with a 31-28 victory against Nebraska in Ireland.

The Gophers (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten) entered the game with the No. 4 scoring defense in the country, allowing just 14.2 points per game.

Northwestern (1-9, 1-6) has averaged 13.5 points per game during its skid.

The Wildcats crossed the 50-yard line just twice in the first half. Midway through the first quarter, they advanced to the Gophers’ 16 before Jordan Howden and Terrell Smith teamed to stuff Evan Hull on fourth-and-one.

Later, the Gophers appeared poised to head into the locker room with a 14-0 halftime lead, as a punt pinned Northwestern at its own 7 with 2:08 to play. But two passes later, the Wildcats were in field-goal range.

First, starter Brendan Sullivan hit Malik Washington for 27 yards. Sullivan was injured on the play, but Ryan Hilinski followed with a 49-yard hookup with Washington to give Northwestern the ball at the Minnesota 17.

After three straight incompletions, Adam Stage kicked a 35-yard field goal to get Northwestern on the board.

The Wildcats turned it over on downs again midway through the third quarter, as Hilinski threw a swing pass just out of Hull’s reach on fourth-and-one at Minnesota’s 41.

Hilinski injured his left knee early in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats then turned to Carl Richardson at quarterback before Cole Freeman played the final series.

“We had a lot of guys that probably didn’t expect to play as much as maybe they anticipated going into the game that played a ton,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said, “and it’ll be great lessons learned for them.”

The Wildcats, who only had 19:38 of possession time, converted just 3 of 12 third downs and went 0-for-3 on fourth down.

“Our inability to be successful and sustain drives on third downs led to our defense being on the field too long,” Fitzgerald said. “Credit to their defense, though. They’ve been playing really well on defense all year. Today was no different.”

Gophers running back Mohamed Ibrahim rushed for 178 yards and three touchdowns.

Ibrahim, who had 36 carries, extended his streak of consecutive 100-yard rushing games to 18, the longest in FBS since 2000. He also became the seventh player in Big Ten history with 50 career rushing touchdowns. His one-yard plunge on the first play of the fourth quarter made it 24-3. It was his 18th rushing touchdown of the season, tying the school record set by Gary Russell in 2005.

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