Northwestern routs Minnesota behind Clayton Thorson, Justin Jackson
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Clayton Thorson had three touchdown passes, Justin Jackson added 166 yards rushing on 31 carries and Northwestern won its sixth straight with a 39-0 rout of Minnesota on Saturday.
The Wildcats (8-3, 6-2 Big Ten) also forced five turnovers on defense. Cornerback Montre Hartage had an interception and a fumble recovery to set up up two touchdowns.
Thorson finished 9 of 13 for 86 yards in a game played mostly in rain and wind. Garrett Dickerson had two touchdown receptions.
“We knew today would be a tough-guy day, a Chicago blue-collar day,” NU coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “You just had to show up and impose your will. I thought we dominated. I thought it was a dominant performance on the line of scrimmage.”
Minnesota quarterback Demry Croft completed just 2 of 11 passes for 43 yards with three interceptions. Rodney Smith had 96 yards rushing for the Gophers (5-6, 2-6).
“I told our team we never really had opportunities to go win the football game because of the turnovers,” Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said. “Five turnovers, six drops. When you have that, you’re not going to win many football games.”
Jackson has 1,010 yards on the season and became just the second Big Ten player — and 9th in FBS history — to rush for 1,000 yards in four straight seasons. Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne (1996-99) is the other Big Ten player.
Jackson has 5,139 career yards and moved past Michigan’s Mike Hart (5,040) for fifth place on the Big Ten’s all-time rushing list.
Northwestern has won 21 of the last 22 games in which Jackson has rushed for 100 yards or more.
“He’s a once in a coaching lifetime type of young man,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s a terrific leader, he’s got an amazing work ethic and what you see on Saturday is a byproduct of his preparation. He’s done it from the minute he got here.”
Minnesota: The Gophers had dropped four of five games before breaking out for a 54-21 win over Nebraska last week. But any hopes that the performance could spark a late-season turnaround were quickly dashed on Saturday.
Northwestern: With a seventh straight win in the season finale next week, the Wildcats will be in line for a major bowl. The offense’s red zone efficiency has played a major role in the winning streak. By going 5 for 5 on Saturday (all touchdowns), the Wildcats have converted 27 of 28 red-zone trips into points during the streak.
Minnesota: The Gophers host No. 4 Wisconsin in the regular-season finale on Saturday.
Northwestern: The Wildcats conclude the season at Illinois on Saturday.