Minnesota sophomore Bryce Witham was far from a household name, even in the state of Minnesota. But bowl season can make a hero and a program legend out of anyone at any given moment. Williams entered the Outback Bowl with just one reception in two games this season. He ended the season with three catches, and his two receptions in the Outback Bowl could not have been more significant as No. 18 Minnesota (11-2) scored a 31-24 victory over No. 12 Auburn (9-4) in the Outback Bowl.
Witham caught his only touchdown of the season, and his fourth-down reception late in the fourth quarter helped to allow Minnesota to run out the clock on the Tigers. For Minnesota, the underdog mentality was well suited and perhaps there was no player better to thrive in the moment the way Witham did. Minnesota dominated Aubrun in the stat sheet with close to 500 yards of offense against a solid defensive team from the SEC. Auburn managed just 232 yards of offense, and just 56 of those yards came on the ground.
Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan passed for 278 yards and two touchdowns. Both of Morgan’s touchdowns were thrown to Tyler Johnson, who caught 12 passes for 204 yards. Young rising running back Mohamed Ibrahim led all players with 140 rushing yards, including some hard runs at the end of the game to pick up a first down and contribute to milking the clock in its entirety. Auburn’s Bo Nix was limited to 17-of-26 for 176 yards and a touchdown.
The win was Minnesota’s second striaght postseason bowl victory under PJ Fleck. It was also Minnesota’s first bowl victory over an SEC team since beating Alabama in the 2004 Music City Bowl. The Gophers have won each of their last three bowl games played, dating back to 2016. Minnesota’s 11 wins this season are the most for a single season since the Gophers won 13 games in 1904. Minnesota’s only other seasons with 10 or more wins came in 1900, 1903, 1905 and 2003.
Although this season may have fallen shy of playing for a Big Ten title in what has been a dream season for the Gophers, Minnesota continues to look to have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future of the program, beginning in 2020 as a rising contender in the Big Ten picture.
Minnesota will begin the 2020 season with high expectations. The season will begin at home against FAU in non-conference play on Thursday, Sept. 3. Auburn will begin its 2020 season two days later on Sept. 5 with a home game against Alcorn State.