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Golden Gophers Tame Tigers 31-24 in Outback Bowl

Golden Gophers Tame Tigers 31-24 in Outback Bowl

Written By Drew Cove (ZoneCoverage.com)
Photo Credit: Brian Curski

The wide receiver from north Minneapolis had a few more things to show in his last collegiate game.

Tyler Johnson played his final game for the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Wednesday and showed up — big time. This was especially true in the fourth quarter. On the first play of a drive with the game tied early in the final quarter, quarterback Tanner Morgan sent a pass deep down the middle of the field and Johnson was there to catch it and take it 73 yards to the end zone for a 31-24 lead that held for the Outback Bowl victory.

Auburn had one drive to get back at Johnson’s score, where the Tigers went three-and-out. Minnesota got the ball back and used the clock to its advantage, but the drive was saved by a third-and-10 run from back Mohamed Ibrahim and a fourth-and-one, one-handed grab from tight end Bryce Witham.

No. 18 Minnesota (11-2) held its own against the favored No. 12 Auburn Tigers (9-4). The Gophers fell behind early as Morgan threw an interception on the first drive of the game. Beyond that, the team surrendered a 96-yard kick return for a touchdown.

The Gophers found themselves down 10-3 but never trailed again after they tied it 10-10. Running back Mohamed Ibrahim scored to make the game 10-10 with a little over four minutes left in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Minnesota outscored Auburn 14-7 with an unconventional touchdown from wildcat quarterback Seth Green to Witham.

Witham played in place of the injured Jake Paulson, and Green was in to fool the play into being a Wildcat sneak for him to get into the end zone.

After another Auburn touchdown to tie the game again, Johnson made his first of two touchdown receptions. To cap a 75-yard drive before halftime, Morgan threw a quick two-yard pass to Johnson where he made it up with one hand to grab the ball and just barely get his foot down in the end zone for the score.

After fewer scoring chances in the second half for both teams, Auburn took advantage of one 86-yard drive in the third quarter to even up the score at 24-24, all before Johnson made his wide-open catch for the go-ahead score.

All throughout the game, Minnesota’s rushing attack was dominant. Ibrahim took control of the game with hard runs that gained first downs from yards after contact. He had 140 yards on 20 carries and the touchdown in the first quarter. Senior Rodney Smith added 69 yards on 16 carries and provided the Gophers with solid rushing attempts when needing short yardage, despite running for a game-long 31 yards on one play.

Auburn’s rushing attack was held to five yards in the first half, and while that improved in the second, it still didn’t add up to what Smith did alone for the Gophers. On 26 combined carries, Auburn’s rushing game mustered only 56 yards.

Overall, Minnesota outgained Auburn in total yards, 494-232. The Gophers also dominated possession time by more than 15 minutes (37:35-22:25).

With the victory, Minnesota recorded its first 11-win season since 1904.