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Saturday, September 24, 2011
Dakota doom continues for Minnesota

By Adam Rittenberg

Memo to Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi: If there's a team with "Dakota" in its name on future football schedules, call and cancel IMMEDIATELY.

Minnesota's struggles against its neighbors to the West continued tonight at TCF Bank Stadium.

On to the postmortem ...

North Dakota State 37, Minnesota 24: Glen Mason got pink-slipped from Minnesota after the 2006 season for failing to beat the better teams on the schedule. But Mason's teams almost always took care of business against the teams they were supposed to beat. Golden Gopher fans likely long for those days.

Minnesota fell to an FCS opponent for the second consecutive season and for the third time in five years. South Dakota was the culprit last fall. North Dakota State also beat the Gophers in 2007, as Minnesota went 1-11 in Tim Brewster's first season on the sideline. Jerry Kill can only hope for better results after his team was outclassed by the Bison. What a mess for a Minnesota team that opened the season with such promise at USC.

Kill knew his team would be tested by the Bison, but Minnesota has so many problems right now. The secondary is a mess, and if the opposing quarterback has any time, as Brock Jensen did tonight, he'll make plays. The Gophers also have a quarterback quandary, as MarQueis Gray backslid tonight, forcing freshman Max Shortell into action. Gray is undoubtedly a great athlete, but can he play quarterback at this level? He needs to be much more consistent.

Credit North Dakota State for making the big plays, none bigger and wilder than a return for a touchdown on the final play of the first half after a Hail Mary attempt by Gray. The Bison had all the momentum at halftime, and they never really relinquished it in the final 30 minutes. Minnesota has a lot of youth on its roster, and the Gophers need to grow up in a hurry as Big Ten play begins next week at Michigan.