Minnesota was able to hang with 22nd-ranked Northwestern for three quarters but the Wildcats eventually pulled away for a 24-14 win at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday.
The backbreaking play was a 69-yard catch-and-run on a pass from Northwestern's Clayton Thorson to J.J. Jefferson that set up a short touchdown run on the next play to give the Wildcats a 19-7 lead, which they pushed to 21-7 on a successful two-point conversion.
Mohamed Ibrahim led the Gophers with 98 rushing yards and a touchdown and Tyler Johnson finished with eight catches for 88 yards and his Big Ten-leading 10th touchdown of the season.
Johnson has 70 receptions for 1,036 yards this season, making him the first Gopher with more than 1,000 yards in a single season since Eric Decker had 1,084 yards in 2008.
Minnesota (5-6 overall, 2-6 Big Ten) needs to beat Wisconsin in Madison next Saturday to become bowl eligible.