MINNEAPOLIS — Quarterback Matt McDonald ran for a pair of scores, and two late interceptions by the Bowling Green defense sealed the win as the Falcons shocked heavily-favored Minnesota, 14-10, on homecoming.
The loss snapped Minnesota’s streak of 21 straight non-conference wins, the longest streak in the country entering Saturday’s game. The Gophers’ last non-conference loss was Sept. 3, 2015 against TCU.
It also marked Minnesota’s first loss to a non-Power 5 conference opponent since losing to North Dakota State on Sept. 24, 2011.
“Give Bowling Green a lot of credit,” said Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck. “I know how excited they are, and they deserve it and they earned it. We did not deserve to win that football game whatsoever.”
Bowling Green came to Minneapolis as 31-point underdogs but used a strong defensive effort to slow down the Golden Gopher offense. Minnesota’s fans booed their team at numerous points in the game, while Falcons players jumped on the field in celebration after the upset was complete.
“I couldn’t be more happy for a group of kids that have really been through a lot,” said Bowling Green head coach Scott Loeffler. “We’ve got the 24-hour rule. We’re going to celebrate for 24 hours, and then we’re going to get back to the office.”
The Gophers had the ball with a chance to take the lead late in the fourth quarter after Bowling Green failed to fall on a muffed punt by Minnesota’s Trey Potts. But one play after recovering the fumble, quarterback Tanner Morgan lofted a deep interception into the hands of Devin Taylor with 2:13 remaining. Morgan threw another pick with 17 seconds remaining.
The Gophers’ passing game struggled all day against the Falcons. Morgan was just 5-of-13 for 59 yards.
“I have to play way better,” said Morgan, who was also sacked four times.
McDonald scored on runs of one and three yards. He was 19-of-35 for 170 yards through the air.
Minnesota’s lone touchdown came on a 19-yard scramble by backup quarterback Cole Kramer.
Saturday was Minnesota’s first loss to a MAC school since losing to Northern Illinois in 2010.
“P.J. Fleck and this Minnesota team is a good football team,” Loeffler said. “They’re going to bounce back.”
NO GROUND GAME, NO PROBLEM
Bowling Green entered Saturday averaging a mere 53 rushing yards per game, second fewest in the country. The Falcons managed just 22 total rushing yards on 25 carries against Minnesota, with McDonald’s 18-yard run the only carry that went for more than seven yards. That run came at a key time, as it helped the Falcons convert on 4th-and-1 to extend their drive.
After Morgan’s struggles Saturday, Fleck was asked if there was any chance Minnesota would make a switch at quarterback.
“That hadn’t even crossed my mind at all,” Fleck said.
Bowling Green: This was a huge boost for a Bowling Green team that had lost two of its first three games. Few people gave the Falcons a chance in this one, especially after an impressive 30-0 win for Minnesota last weekend against Colorado. But the Falcons never trailed by more than three and took advantage of the Gophers’ mistakes. The ground game remains an issue, but the defense held its own against Minnesota.
Minnesota: There were miscues galore for the Gophers in Saturday’s loss. Minnesota was stuffed on a 4th-and-1 attempt that led to a Bowling Green touchdown. Morgan lost a fumble after an 18-yard run. A roughing the kicker penalty on a Bowling Green punt in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons new life. Those types of mistakes can’t happen in a game where Minnesota was favored by more than 30 points.
Bowling Green: The Falcons take on Kent State on the road on Oct. 2.
Minnesota: The Gophers head on the road to face Purdue on Oct. 2.