Gophers can't score at the end, lose heartbreaker to Michigan 29-26


Michigan Wolverines 29

Minnesota Gophers 26

Interim head coach Tracy Claeys made a gutsy call with 2 seconds to go in the game, with his Gophers down by three points to Michigan and the ball on the 1/2 yard line.

Instead of trying for a short field goal that would have tied the game and sent it into overtime, he called on quarterback Mitch Leidner to sneak the ball into the end zone.

Leidner was stopped short, and the Wolverines survived with a 29-26 victory to take back the Little Brown Jug.

Up until the last couple of plays, the Gophers had momentum on their side. Michigan had scored a touchdown with about five minutes to play to take the three-point lead, but Minnesota had a solid drive going and enough time to score.

KJ May made a brilliant fourth-down catch to keep the drive alive with 1:30 left. A few plays later Drew Wolitarsky caught a 23-yard pass from Leidner and fell into the end zone.

It was initially ruled a touchdown but that call was reversed and the Gophers had the ball on the 1/2-yard line.

Minnesota had just 19 seconds left on the clock and only one timeout. Leidner took a long time to snap the ball and threw an incomplete pass, leaving just two seconds left on the clock. That's when Claeys decided to go for the win.

And after his first game as interim head coach, some are already saying those last two plays may have cost him the permanent job.

The Gophers played a heck of a game against Michigan, ranked No. 15 in the country. They outgained the Wolverines 461 yards to 296. Leidner was 16-of-32 for a career-high 317 yards. And Ryan Santoso kicked four field goals.

It was an emotional evening for the Gophers and their fans, with the sudden retirement of Gopher football coach Jerry Kill for health reasons, and the untimely death of Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders.

Tributes to both coaches were part of the pregame ceremonies.

The Gophers also unveiled new alternate uniforms for the game, with nary a trace of maroon for the Maroon and Gold.

The Gophers' schedule doesn't get any easier. After Michigan they play No. 1 Ohio State and No. 10 Iowa on the road, then will host Illinois and cross-border rival Wisconsin to finish up the season.

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