After a rocky start to the season, the Gopher football team have climbed to the top of the Big Ten West.
By using a dominant rushing attack and an opportunistic defense, the Gophers pounded Northwestern 34-14 on Saturday and to leap ahead of No. 9 Iowa.
Saturday's victory began with a long drive that saw the Gophers get on the board with a Matthew Trickett field goal.
With the Wildcats looking to answer, Malik Washington tried to extend a screen play for extra yardage and coughed up the football. Justin Walley was there to scoop up the fumble and take it to the house to put the Gophers up 10-0.
With the Gophers holding the early lead, they turned to the running game. Despite an injury to Bryce Williams, the duo of Ky Thomas and Mar'Keise "Bucky" Irving thrived, helping Minnesota put up 308 yards rushing on the afternoon.
Irving went a long way toward becoming the only "Bucky" Gopher fans will accept by plowing into the end zone twice including a three-yard touchdown that put Minnesota up 20-7 at halftime.
Tanner Morgan got in on the fun in the second half, executing a rare QB keeper on a read-option for a 17-yard touchdown that effectively put the game out of reach.
The Gophers poured it on from there, getting a 41-yard touchdown from Irving and a 24-yard touchdown run from Derik LeCaptain to help the Gophers cruise.
With Hawkeyes loss to Wisconsin, the Gophers now control their own destiny in the Big Ten West. While they host Illinois next Saturday, they'll have a big matchup in Iowa City on Nov. 13.
That could lead the way to two big games down the stretch when the Gophers travel to Indiana before battling for Paul Bunyan's Axe against Wisconsin on Nov. 27. But those games are far down the road and for now, the Gophers can take steps toward their first division title in program history.